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The alt.fan.harry-potter Potterverse FAQ

This FAQ covers story-internal subject matter from the universe of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books.
Last update 2004-01-30
By Troels Forchhammer

Warning: This FAQ contains major spoilers for all the Harry Potter books. If you have not read them all, you should seriously consider waiting to read on until you have.

As so many other things do, this FAQ 'grew in the telling.' I started out with an idea of completeness, but I have realised that this is impossible and I will settle for 'thoroughness' — and covering the essentials. Inevitably I will have missed things and I will be only too happy to get input on this FAQ — questions that need to be addressed, views that I have forgotten or treated unfairly — everything can be mailed to me. None of the entries in this FAQ should be considered conclusive — more can be said about all of them. The reason for their inclusion here is to show what has already been said in order to take us faster through that part. I hope and intend that this FAQ will be able to serve as a starting point for future discussions on AFH-P and other places to the benefit of all participants

Thanks to all the participants in the newsgroup for their invaluable — though often unknowing — contributions, and to galadriel waters for a careful review and many valuable suggestions.

This FAQ will probably never be "complete" — certainly not while Rowling hasn't published the last Harry Potter book (and probably not after that either). This means that many of the questions are not treated in full, and that not all opinions and arguments are given. I have tried to give what I understand to be the majority view in all cases, but it should also be noted that it is a premise for the discussions and answers in this FAQ that Dumbledore not only speaks the truth as he knows it, but also that he doesn't make factual errors (he admits himself to making errors of judgement — e.g. misplaced trust, but there is a difference there). It is certainly allowed to challenge this premise which is why it is stated this clearly.

Many of the answers are speculative and alternatives are usually possible — it is my plan to gradually update this FAQ to reflect this aspect as well.

Information about spoilers
In the contents list you will find a number in brackets in front of each entry. This number refers to the number of the books from which actual spoiler material has been used to compile the entry. Entries for which no such number is given does not contain material directly related to the plot of any of the books. Books for which very serious spoiler material directly related to the resolution of the plot is used are noted in curly brackets. The first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is not considered for spoiler purposes —, all visitors are assumed to have read this book.


  1. Changes since last edition
  2. Characters
    1. Harry
      1. [2] Is Harry Potter the Heir of Gryffindor?
      2. When was Harry born?
      3. [2] Is Harry Voldemort's grandson?
      4. Are Harry and Hermione Siblings?
      5. {4,5} How is Harry protected at Privet Drive 4?
      6. [4] Is Harry related to NN?
      7. {1,2,4,5} Is Harry or Voldemort the strongest?
    2. Hermione
      1. When was Hermione born?
      2. Is Hermione really Muggle-born?
    3. Dumbledore
      1. {3} How powerful (omniscient) is Dumbledore?
      2. {4}What caused Dumbledore's "gleam of something like triumph" in [GoF-36]?
    4. Voldemort
      1. [4] Ehhh — wasn't Tom Riddle among the dead in the Riddle House?
      2. [2] Is Voldemort Harry's Grandfather?
      3. {4,5} What will be Voldemort's future strategy?
      4. {3,4} Questions about Voldemort's wand.?
    5. Snape
      1. [2]{5} Does Snape really want to teach Defence against the Dark Arts?
      2. [3] Is Snape a Vampire?
      3. [4,5] Snape: Good or Evil?
      4. [3,4]{5} Can we trust Snape's memory in the Pensieve?
    6. Other people
      1. {3} Who is Crookshanks?
      2. {4} Why did the GoF DADA teacher teach Harry to resist the Imperius curse?
      3. What about Mrs Figg?
      4. Are Lily and/or James still alive — or will they return?
      5. {5} What really happened with that veil in [OotP-35]?
      6. [3] Were James Potter and his friends called "The Marauders"?
  3. Magic
    1. Spells
      1. [3] What's the difference between charms, jinxes, hexes and curses?
    2. Wands
      1. {4} What makes two wands brothers?
      2. {4} What was that Priori Incantatem effect?
      3. {3,4} Questions about Voldemort's wand.?
    3. Other questions about magic
      1. [2] What is this about underage magic?
      2. [3]{4,5}What makes magic stronger?
      3. What is Arithmancy?
  4. Creatures and people
    1. Beings, Beasts and Spirits
      1. What are beings beasts and spirits?
      2. [2] How did they cure Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington with the Mandrake Potion?
      3. What are the differences (if any) between Ghosts and Poltergeists?
      4. What are Vampires?
    2. Uncategorized Creatures
      1. {3,4} What are Dementors?
  5. Places
    1. Hogwarts
      1. Where is Hogwarts?
      2. Is Hogwarts the only wizarding school on the British Isles?
      3. How many students are there at Hogwarts?
      4. {4}[5] Apparating etc. at Hogwarts?
    2. Durmstrang
      1. Where is Durmstrang?
    3. Beauxbatons
      1. Where is Beauxbatons?
  6. Events
    1. Specific Events
      1. {3} How did Harry's godfather order the Firebolt for Harry?
      2. [3]{5} What was Professor Trelawney's first prediction?
      3. {5} Who does the Prophecy refer to?
      4. {4} Didn't Harry's parents appear in the wrong order in Priori Incantatem (GoF ch. 34)?
    2. Time and timelines
      1. What is this problem with the timeline?
      2. {3} What happened when Harry and Hermione went back in time?
  7. Story External Questions
    1. The Harry Potter Books
      1. What is considered canon?
      2. Are the Harry Potter books children's books?
  8. Definitions of terms and abbreviations

  1. Changes since last edition.

    Changes since 2004-01-30:

    To the Top

  2. Characters
    1. Harry
      1. Is Harry Potter the Heir of Gryffindor?

        It is a common theory that Harry is actually the "heir of Gryffindor." The reason for this particular theory's popularity must of course be sought in Voldemort's status as the last heir of Salazar Slytherin and the enmity between those two founders, which appears to have been inherited by their respective houses to this day, and Rowling apparently enjoys to keep it mysterious. In the World Book Day chat she said, "People are always wondering who Harry might be related to. Maybe he is ;) when asked if Harry is related to Godric Gryffindor[WBD-27]. It is possible that she doesn't intend to ever answer that question (I suspect that she will leave some of this kind of questions for us to ponder forever — possibly because she hasn't planned this, but doesn't want to exclude the possibility either).

        The theory relies on several indications in the books and elsewhere

        • Harry and his parents lived in Godric's Hollow — named after Godric Gryffindor.
        • Harry's zodiacal sign is the Leo — the Gryffindor Lion.
        • When Harry first held his wand it emitted red and golden sparks — the Gryffindor colours.
        • In [CoS-17] Harry draws Gryffindor's sword from the Sorting Hat.
        • Later (in [CoS-18]) Dumbledore says that only a "true Gryffindor" could have done so. While this can be read as 'a student who truly belongs in Gryffindor house' it is sufficiently ambiguous to allow for a deeper meaning.
        • Saint Godric of Finchale (who was a contemporary of Godric Gryffindor) is much associated with stags and deer[PSI:Godric]. To Saint Godric are, among others, attributed the tales "Saint Godric's Garden and the Wild Deer" and "Saint Godric and the Hunted Stag"[Saints0521-Godric]. This seems to tie the name of Godric to James Potter — and thereby to Harry.

        The evidence of the Sorting Hat's irresolution and insistence that Harry would have done well in Slytherin is normally disregarded, though it has also been suggested that Harry actually counts both Salazar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor among his ancestors. This, however, has been refuted by Rowling on her official web site[JKR]

        The primary objection to this theory is the emphasis Rowling has placed on the opinion that blood(-relations) doesn't matter. This is particularly obvious in [CoS] where the primary conflict has Harry and friends fighting against those who believe that (at least recent) Muggle ancestry makes a person less worthy of any consideration. In [CoS-9] we even learn that Godric Gryffindor himself was the founder who fought the most persistently against such prejudices of blood. It is held that it would go against this ethical principle if it should turn out to be significant to the story that Harry is related by blood to Godric Gryffindor.

        A modification of the Heir of Gryffindor theory attempts to overcome this objection by stressing that the important bit is that Harry is the true heir in spirit of Godric Gryffindor.

      2. When was Harry born?

        Harry's birthday is normally given as the 31st of July, 1980, but the identification of the year is not without problems.

        When one investigates the dating clues that are spread throughout the books, the result is dishearteningly inconsistent. Most people therefore choose to rely on the most obvious piece of evidence in the books — the celebration of Sir Nicholas' five hundredth deathday in The Deathday Party[CoS-8], which is also used for the Hogwarts Timeline on the CoS DVD release. For an in-depth treatment of the time line problem see [TFO1].

      3. Is Harry Voldemort's grandson?

        - or are they otherwise related.

        Fortunately JK Rowling herself has addressed this question on her own official web site, and the answer is, as we have long expected, no![JKR]

        That Harry should be a descendant in any degree from Voldemort is, as Rowling also notes, in direct contradiction with Dumbledore stating in Dobby's Reward[CoS-18] that Voldemort is the last descendant of Slytherin[1] — if Harry was descended from Voldemort this would be impossible.

        The closest possible family relation between the two would be if Harry was descended from a half-brother or half-sister to Voldemort. Someone who shares Voldemort's Muggle father, but has another mother[AFH-P 021208] [AFH-P 020626].

        [1] In some editions of [CoS] Dumbledore says "Lord Voldemort — who is the last remaining ancestor of Salazar Slytherin" while in others he says: "Lord Voldemort — who is the last remaining descendant of Salazar Slytherin." It worth noting that Rowling repeats the correct statement on her web site: "And hasn't Dumbledore already told Harry that Voldemort is the last surviving descendent of Salazar Slytherin? Just to clarify - this means that Harry is NOT a descendent of Salazar Slytherin."

      4. Are Harry and Hermione Siblings?

        This would of course require that the Grangers aren't really Hermione's parents. Several attempts have been made with varying ingenuity to defend speculations that would make siblings or half-siblings of Harry and Hermione. These generally tend to provide a magical ancestry for Hermione — something that others argue detracts from the ethical viewpoint Rowling appear to be propounding in the books: that blood doesn't really matter.

      5. How is Harry protected at Privet Drive 4?

        This question is of course answered to a large extent in 'The Lost Prophecy'[OotP-37], where Dumbledore explains to Harry how he set up the protection:

            'But I knew, too, where Voldemort was weak. And so I made my decision. You would be protected by an ancient magic of which he knows, which he despises, and which he has always, therefore, underestimated - to his cost. I am speaking, of course, of the fact that your mother died to save you. She gave you a lingering protection he never expected, a protection that flows in your veins to this day. I put my trust, therefore, in your mother's blood. I delivered you to her sister, her only remaining relative.'
            'She doesn't love me,' said Harry at once. 'She doesn't give a damn -'
            'But she took you,' Dumbledore cut across him. 'She may have taken you grudgingly, furiously, unwillingly, bitterly, yet still she took you, and in doing so, she sealed the charm I placed upon you. Your mother's sacrifice made the bond of blood the strongest shield I could give you.'

        This passage clearly shows that Harry was first given a protection by his mother's sacrifice, which "flows in [Harry's] veins to this day." and later Dumbledore was able to utilise this protection as a basis for some extra protection. This extra protection is a charm, which Dumbledore placed on Harry and which was sealed by Aunt Petunia (because she shares Lily's blood) when she took in Harry.

        This second protection — the charm which Dumbledore placed on Harry and which Aunt Petunia sealed — requires that Harry has his home with Aunt Petunia, which is satisfied by him living there for a short while each year. It also only protects Harry while he is at Privet Drive (or whereever Aunt Petunia might go to live). Also, while Voldemort succeeded in overcoming the first protection — that which stemmed from Lily's sacrifice — by using Harry's blood to create his new body, he still cannot overcome the second protecttion, so Harry is still untouchable while he is at Privet Drive 4.

        The following is the contents of this entry prior to the release of book 5[OotP], which is retained as a reference to prior discussions of this subject (and also because we're just a bit proud of how close we came ;-)

        We know that Dumbledore has put some impressive protections in place for Harry. Voldemort tells us as much in The Death Eaters[GoF-33]:

            'But how to get at Harry Potter? For he has been better protected than I think even he knows, protected in ways devised by Dumbledore long ago, when it fell to him to arrange the boy's future. Dumbledore invoked an ancient magic, to ensure the boy's protection as long as he is in his relations' care. Not even I can touch him there ... then, of course, there was the Quidditch World Cup ... I thought his protection might be weaker there, away from his relations and Dumbledore, but I was not yet strong enough to attempt kidnap in the midst of a horde of Ministry wizards. And then, the boy would return to Hogwarts, where he is under the crooked nose of that Muggle-loving fool from morning until night. So how could I take him?

        This is quite unequivocal: when with the Dursleys Harry is so well protected that "not even" Voldemort can touch him there! Is is generally agreed upon that Harry's blood relation to Aunt Petunia (and Dudley if it comes to that) is important to the working of the protection. Another interesting part is the reference to the Quidditch World Cup; Voldemort assumes that the protections would be weaker — not missing. This protection would obviously include Arthur Weasley and his adult sons, but could there be other protections in place?

        Apart from the ancient magic which Dumbledore invoked might there not be extra protections in place at Privet Drive? One very popular speculation in that regard is the identity of Mrs Figg. If she is indeed the same person as Arabella Figg of "the old crowd," it might be speculated that the old crowd has not been idle in the years since Voldemort's fall — they can have spent some time protecting Harry.

        It has also been proposed that the letter of reprimand which Harry received after Dobby's Hover Charm shows that Harry or Privet Drive 4 is specifically targeted by some ministerial magic monitoring spell (see also entry about underage magic), and that the detection of Dobby's charm was a mere by-product of this (possibly the nature of the spell caused someone at the Ministry believe that Harry had used it). The main purpose of the surveillance would then be to be able to react quickly if the house was under attack (detecting aggressive spells).

        It has also been speculated that Harry is protected by a Fidelius Charm[AFH-P 010709] [AFH-P 000717], but considering the number of people who knows where Harry is, this seems quite impossible, though there may have been a Fidelius Charm before Harry was invited to Hogwarts.

        In the end we probably don't know it all. Rowling said in a chat[BN3], about Harry's knowledge of the protection of him at Privet Drive 4 "He sort of knows now, but he won't know the whole truth about that for a little while."

      6. Is Harry related to NN?

        The correct answer to that question is 'not in any meaningful way!'

        In the very first chapter of the first book: The Boy Who Lived[PS-1], Dumbledore quite clearly says: "I've come to bring Harry to his aunt and uncle. They're the ony family he has left now."

        While Dumbledore is quite clear that Harry is no other family left than the Dursleys, it is not quite clear what is meant by 'family'. To suggest that Harry is related by blood to no other persons than his Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley is preposterous, whether you believe in the Genesis or the scientists, but Dumbledore's statement makes it clear that every other blood relation of Harry's is so distant that he doesn't consider it 'family.' It has been proposed that the word 'family' in this connection must be understood in the context of the protection Dumbledore invoked for Harry while he is staying with Aunt Petunia (see "How is Harry protected at Privet Drive 4?") — that there were no other people who were sufficiently closely related to Harry and Lily to act as the anchor of this ancient magic, which Dumbledore invoked. This might even be seen as suggesting that there are living Potter relatives, though McGonagall's lack of protests at Dumbledore's statement leads me to believe that any such would not be close relatives (fourth cousins or something like that).

        There's a couple of theories that deserve special attention due to their common nature.

        • Dumbledore is Harry's close relative: Rowling says no[JKR]
        • Dumbledore is really an older version of Harry:
          Rowling's answer above probably also applies here, though this is not the only evidence we've got:
          We are told in The Very Secret Diary[CoS-13] that Dumbledore's hair was auburn before it turned white and Harry's hair is of course jet-black. Likewise we know from The Boy Who Lived[PS-1] that Dumbledore's eyes are bright blue, while Harry's eyes of course are a brilliant green.
        • Voldemort is Harry's father.
        • Harry is the good side of Voldemort.
          Apart from the arguments above, Voldemort is more than fifty years older than Harry. Harry is not related to Salazar Slytherin either[JKR].

        One thing, however, that we do know is that all of Harry's grandparents are dead. Asked what happened to Harry's grandparents, Rowling answered, "They're all dead and not particularly important to the story[WBD-9].

      7. Is Harry or Voldemort the strongest?

        This has been much debated in AFH-P, but no real resolution seems in sight.

        The question is of course tightly connected to the question of magical power, but also other considerations come into play; most importantly the questions of when, of what we mean by "stronger". Rowling has, as per the end of book 5, settled the question of who would win a normal duel between the two (see below), but this only shifts the focus of the discussion to concentrate on compareing the inherent power of the two, whether realised or not.

        The major source of information is the descriptions of the various confrontations between Harry and Voldemort. So far (book 5 published) Harry has met Voldemort more or less directly five times.

        1. When Harry was 15 months, Voldemort tried to kill him, but failed. According to what we have been told in the books, this was due to the magical protection he enjoyed due to his mother's sacrifice. It is arguable whether Harry can be said in any way to have participated in this confrontation.

        2. When Harry was almost twelve years old (end of book 1) he confronted a person possessed by Voldemort. Harry succeeded in vanquishing this person (professor Quirrell), and he managed to drive Voldemort out of Quirrell, who subsequently died (in is unclear whether the fatal injury came from Harry or from Voldemort leaving the body). While the magic which defeated Quirrell came from Lily's protection, it is clear that it also drained Harry. It can be argued that it was Harry's magical strength that powered the protection even if he would never have been able to invoke such magic by himself. Whether Harry can be said in this case to have defeated Voldemort as well is arguable, but it is clear that Voldemort can't use Quirrell's magical powers (Quirrell is even worried that Voldemort might not be strong enough to talk to Harry). All in all the outcome of this confrontation isn't very clear.

        3. A year later, when Harry was nearing his thirteenth birthday, he once more confronted Lord Voldemort. This time, however, it was a magically restored though not wholly incarnated "copy" of Lord Voldemort's sixteen year old self; the boy Tom Marvolo Riddle. During this confrontation Harry hardly used any magic at all, and he certainly didn't use any magic directly against Tom Riddle

          It can be argued that Harry expended magical power by calling upon Fawkes, but it can also be argued that it was Fawkes who magically detected Harry's loyalty to Dumbledore. Likewise it is uncertain whether the magical power to produce Gryffindor's sword from the Sorting Hat came from Harry or from the Hat. None of this, however, seems as impressive as being able to produce enough magical power to disable a grown wizard and possibly kill him, as Harry did in his first year.

        4. In Harry's third year at Hogwarts he didn't face Voldemort, but that was remedied in the fourth year shortly before Harry's fifteenth birthday when he finally faced Lord Voldemort in the flesh. This confrontation is probably the most debated of them all.

          The confrontation starts by Harry's capture and the death of Cedric Diggory. Then Lord Voldemort is re-embodied using, among other ingredients, Harry's blood. After much talking, Voldemort declares that he will duel against Harry, and the Priori Incantatem effect ensues.

          To some the book offers "indisputable" <evil grin> evidence that the Priori Incantatem effect isn't decided by magical strength, but rather that the magic if this rare effect is such that once the spells initiating the effect are cast, the nature of the confrontation is changed such that the duel becomes a question of concentration and will power. This is supported by the descriptions in the text where Harry is described as concentrating strongly (see also What Makes Magic Stronger? and Priori Incantatem - the Reverse Spell Effect). Under this interpretation of the events Harry "only" proved that he was better at concentrating and possibly that he had a stronger will than Voldemort.

          Others prefer to take Voldemort on his word in The Death Eaters[GoF-33], when he told his Death Eaters;

              'You see, I think, how foolish it was to suppose that this boy could ever have been stronger than me,' said Voldemort. 'But I want there to be no mistake in anybody's mind. Harry Potter escaped me by a lucky chance. And I am now going to prove my power by killing him, here and now, in front of you all, when there is no Dumbledore to help him, and no mother to die for him. I will give him his chance. He will be allowed to fight, and you will be left in no doubt which of us is the stronger.

          According to this interpretation, the ensueing duel did indeed leave no doubt which of them was the stronger.

        5. Finally (so far) Harry also met Voldemort at the end of his fifth year at Hogwarts at the end of the battle in the Ministry of Magic. While battling Dumbledore, Voldemort possessed Harry in the hope that Dumbledore would kill Harry to destroy Voldemort. Harry, however, thinks that if he is killed, he will see Sirius Black again, and as his "heart filled with emotion" Voldemort's grip on him loosened and Voldemort finally had to flee Harry's mind. It is quite unclear whether Harry actually expended any magical power in this, or if it was merely his love for Sirius (love exactly like the love of a Muggle) that was intolerable for Voldemort. Once more the actual nature of the confrontation is somewhat unclear.

        Apart from these five confrontations there is a statement by JKR from the Royal Albert Hall event[RAH] that, "Harry is not a good enough wizard yet to even attempt to take on Voldemort as wizard to wizard." Now, if Rowling had said that Harry wasn't strong enough yet, then this discussion would have been moot, but as she specifically said that he isn't good enough yet, this might mean that what he lacks is training, skill, knowledge etc. while his inherent power already exceeds Voldemort's. Finally Rowling has confirmed that "Harry's powers are going to get even greater"[WBD-104].

        Much, very much, more can and has been said about this subject, but ultimately I don't think that the evidence is conclusive; that people can disagree and be unable to find any evidence that can convince the other part is a good indication of that ;-)  — see e.g. [AFH-P 011201], [AFH-P 020421], [AFH-P 020727], [AFH-P 020914], [AFH-P 030129], [AFH-P 030611] and [AFH-P 031122].

      To the Top

    2. Hermione
      1. When was Hermione born?

        J. K. Rowling has, in an on-line chat at Comic Relief UK stated that Hermione's birthday is the 16th of September, but the question is then which year.

        It has been noted that English schools often has a cut-off date at 1 September, and that Hermione therefore must have just missed the entry the previous year. This would make Hermione the oldest of the three by almost a year.

        Against this is held that the only canonical reference is in Hermione's Secret[PoA-21] where Dumbledore refers to Harry and Hermione as "two thirteen-year-old wizards." This is on the sixth of June so Hermione must therefore be born in the same year as Harry and Ron. This has been much debated in AFH-P — most of the arguments for the various solutions are summarised in this thread [AFH-P 030203].

        Some hold that this question is resolved by Hogwarts Timeline on the DVD-ROM features on the Chamber of Secrets film DVD release. See also the question about canon. This timeline is reportedly edited and approved by J.K. Rowling (confirmed by Warner Bros. according to TLC) and it has Hermione as the youngest of the trio — being 50 days younger than Harry. The DVD ROM timeline is, however, not considered canonical.

      2. Is Hermione really Muggle-born?

        Apart from making her Harry's sister — q.v., other theories have also been advanced that give Hermione some recent wizard ancestry — making her have at least one magical parent. As with many other theories that emphasise blood relations, this would seem to conflict with the ethical principle in the books. During the conflict in [CoS] Hermione's cleverness and magical ability was given as an argument against the idea that Muggle born wizards and witches should be less worthy than others. If this is removed from Hermione's status it will strongly weaken that argument — which would also weaken the general principle of tolerance that is one of the primary principles of good in the Harry Potter books.

      To the Top

    3. Dumbledore
      1. How powerful (omniscient) is Dumbledore?

        The connection in which this question most often appear to crop up is when the discussion turns Dumbledore's seemingly boundless knowledge of what goes on at Hogwarts — especially around Harry. This theme is set forth already in [PS], where Harry, Ron and Hermione speculates in the last chapter speculates whether Dumbledore was goading Harry on all the time; giving him the Invisibility Cloak etc.

        It is important in this connection to remember that Dumbledore has a function as a spokesperson for the author, as evidenced by Rowling's statement in the interview on the Chamber of Secrets DVD release:

        Steve Kloves

        Yeah, I mean, I like writing all three, but I've always loved writing Hermione. Because, I just, one, she's a tremendous character for a lot of reasons for a writer, which also is she can carry exposition in a wonderful way because you just assume she read it in a book. If I need to tell the audience something —

        JK Rowling

        Absolutely right, I find that all the time in the book, if you need to tell your readers something just put it in her. There are only two characters that you can put it convincingly into their dialogue. One is Hermione, the other is Dumbledore. In both cases you accept, it's plausible that they have, well Dumbledore knows pretty much everything anyway, but that Hermione has read it somewhere. So, she's handy.

        An upper limit: There is an upper limit to Dumbledore's knowledge. In Owl Post Again[PoA-22] Dumbledore tells Harry "Sirius told me all about how they became Animagi last night,' said Dumbledore, smiling. 'An extraordinary achievement — not least, keeping it quiet from me," which clearly indicates that Dumbledore did not know that James Potter, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew had become Animagi, but also that he finds this extraordinary; he would, in other words, have expected to know this.

        Another thing that indicates the limits of Dumbledore's knowledge is his ignorance of the fraudulent Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody in [GoF] — all the way to chapter 35 'Veritaserum' where he says "The real Moody would not have removed you from my sight after what happened tonight. The moment he took you, I knew — and I followed." This might even be considered as narrowing his knowledge about Harry more than the example involving Harry's father.

        Going the other way — trying to establish the most he does know is more difficult as it is not always clear whether he actually knows what is going on. One candidate is from Hermione's Secret[PoA-21], where it has been suggested that Dumbledore actually knows that Harry and Hermione is hiding in the Forest intending to save Buckbeak:

            Footsteps echoed from within the cabin.
            'Buckbeak, move!' Harry hissed.
            Harry tugged harder on the rope around Buckbeak's neck. The Hippogriff began to walk, rustling its wings irritably. They were still ten feet away from the Forest, in plain view of Hagrid's back door.
            'One moment, please, Macnair,' came Dumbledore's voice. 'You need to sign too.' The footsteps stopped. Harry heaved on the rope. Buckbeak snapped his beak and walked a little faster.
            Hermione's white face was sticking out from behind a tree. 'Harry, hurry!' she mouthed.
            Harry could still hear Dumbledore's voice talking from within the cabin. He gave the rope another wrench. Buckbeak broke into a grudging trot. They had reached the trees ...
            'Quick! Quick!' Hermione moaned, darting out from behind her tree, seizing the rope too and adding her weight to make Buckbeak move faster. Harry looked over his shoulder; they were now blocked from sight; they couldn't see Hagrid's garden at all.
            'Stop!' he whispered to Hermione. 'They might hear us -'
            Hagrid's back door had opened with a bang. Harry, Hermione and Buckbeak stood quite still; even the Hippogriff seemed to be listening intently.
            Silence ... then -
            'Where is it?' said the reedy voice of the Committee member. 'Where is the beast?'
            'It was tied here!' said the executioner furiously. I saw it! just here!'
            'How extraordinary,' said Dumbledore. There was a note of amusement in his voice.

        The way Dumbledore stops Macnair before he gets a chance to see Harry pulling on Buckbeak's rope and the amusement in his voice in the last comment, suggest to many that Dumbledore actually does know what is going on here.

        Since the release of book 5[OotP] a part of this question has been resolved as we now know that the portraits of the former headmasters are honour-bound to help the current headmaster, and that these have access to all other pictures in which they appear themselves. This latter part has also been suggested to be true for Dumbledore himself, especially with respect to his appearance on the collectible cards of famous witches and wizards on the Chocolate Frog cards. If Dumbledore indeed is able to communicate with these innumerable images of himself, then there would be almost no secret in the magical community which could be kept from him. The suspicion is strengthened by Bill's comment in The Order of the Phoenix[OotP-5] that "Dumbledore says he doesn't care what they do as long as they don't take him off the Chocolate Frog Cards."

      2. What caused Dumbledore's "gleam of something like triumph" in [GoF-36]?

        This short passage in [GoF-36] has been a constant source of debate ever since the book was published (the first I can find is from the day of the release [AFH-P 010708]) — and four years later we're no closer to a solution than we were in the summer of 2000 (there is a hope that this will be changed in the remaining two books).

        Let's first look at the passage itself from The Parting of the Ways[GoF-36]:

            When Harry told of Wormtail piercing his arm with the dagger, however, Sirius let out a vehement exclamation; and Dumbledore stood up so quickly that Harry started. Dumbledore walked around the desk and told Harry to stretch out his arm. Harry showed them both the place where his robes were torn, and the cut beneath them.
            'He said my blood would make him stronger than if he'd used someone else's,' Harry told Dumbledore. 'He said the protection my — my mother left in me — he'd have it, too. And he was right — he could touch me without hurting himself, he touched my face.'
            For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore's eyes. But next second, Harry was sure he had imagined it, for when Dumbledore had returned to his seat behind the desk, he looked as old and weary as Harry had ever seen him.
            'Very well,' he said, sitting down again. 'Voldemort has overcome that particular barrier. Harry, continue, please.'

        It is quite clear that the gleam comes directly after Harry relating that Voldemort was capable of touching his face, and this will normally (in books) mean that this information is the direct cause for the reaction (in order to allow the reader to identify cause and effect the effect normally appear immediately after the cause — unless of course a different cause is directly stated). It should be noted that not all agree with this: some theories rely on the gleam being caused by the information that Voldemort used Harry's blood for his resurrection (while I believe that this information is included in "Harry told of Wormtail piercing his arm with the dagger").

        While there is a lot of specific theories as to the root cause for Dumbledore's gleam of something like triumph, they can generally be sorted in 3 categories (there may be some theories that fall outside of these three general categories, but I have yet to see them ;-):

        1. Dumbledore is secretly evil.
        2. Voldemort is now vulnerable (to Harry?).
        3. Voldemort now has a bond to Harry.
        4. Attempts at humour.

        Ad 1.  The primary arguments pro et contra for this theory should be quite obvious. It has, though, also been put forward that if any of the positive interpretations were right (2. or 3.) then certainly the gleam in Dumbledore's eyes would have been hope rather than triumph — see e.g. [AFH-P 000725] for an early (but good) treatment of this. Rowling has frequently led us astray about the true intentions of her characters (e.g. Quirrell/Snape, Pettigrew/Black), and this could be the case for Dumbledore as well, but in most cases this has been cleared up within one book (it can be debated whether the previous mentions of Sirius Black and Scabbers are relevant in this connection).

        Ad 2.  The exact means by which Voldemort has now become vulnerable is what makes for such an overwhelming set of theories in this category. The possibilities include:

        Ad 3.  Just see [AFH-P 001109]
        Ad 4.  The Comic Relief of AFH-P:
          [AFH-P 021209]
          [AFH-P 021001]
          [AFH-P 020623]
          [AFH-P 030109]
          [AFH-P 020820]
          [AFH-P 021209]
          That is of course not exhaustive, but it does give an idea ;-)

        Far more than this has been said about this subject — as can be easily seen by using Google groups. One search can be found here.

      To the Top

    4. Voldemort
      1. What will be Voldemort's future strategy?

        This question hasn't been discussed much since the release of OotP. Primarily due, I think, to the title of the last chapter: "The Second War Begins"[OotP-38], which is believed to foretell what is coming — War!

        The contents of this entry as it was prior to the release of book 5[OotP] can be found in the old version of this FAQ.

      2. Ehhh — wasn't Tom Riddle among the dead in the Riddle House?

        Yes — the three dead were Tom Riddle Sr. and his parents — i.e. Voldemort's father and grandparents. The dark-haired, pale teenage boy that Frank Bryce reports to have seen near the house on the day of the Riddles' deaths is commonly believed to have been the Dark Lord Voldemort himself coming to kill his family (we do know that it was him who killed them).

      3. Questions about Voldemort's wand.?

        There are a couple of interesting questions regarding Voldemort's wand. First and foremost appears to to be "where was Voldemort's wand while he was disincarnate?"

        The general consensus appear to be that at least one extra person was present in Godric's Hollow that Hallowe'en, who took the wand and somehow hid it. As Voldemort probably would have been unable of taking it with him in his disincarnate form, the wand must somehow have been taken to Albania by someone else so that it could be used to kill Bertha Jorkins. It is normally assumed that Wormtail had it with him. However, Wormtail cannot have had the wand when he escaped in The Dementor's Kiss[PoA-20] since he found this necessary, "Pettigrew had dived for Lupin's dropped wand." It is therefore normally assumed that Pettigrew knew where the wand was hidden and went and fetched it before he started towards Albania.

        This explanation makes it probable that the person who took the wand in Godric's Hollow was Pettigrew — especially when we consider that he was the one who had to tell Voldemort where to find the Potters. Perhaps 'breaking' the Fidelius Charm required that Pettigrew physically revealed the information (not just in speech or writing) or perhaps Voldemort didn't entirely trust Pettigrew's information and required him to come along to be sure of him.

        Alternative explanations include Voldemort being able to bring his wand after all (equivalent to Sauron's ability to take the One Ring with him after the drowning of Númenor), the wand could also have been brought to Albania by someone else prior to Wormtail's arrival (Quirrell?), though both of these explanations seem less satisfying than using Wormtail.

        Another unaswered question about Voldemort's wand is "why did Wormtail use Voldemort's wand to kill Cedric?"

        First the evidence that it actually was Wormtail who did that — from Flesh, Blood and Bone[GoF-32]:

            From far away, above his head, he heard a high, cold voice say, 'Kill the spare.'
            A swishing noise and a second voice, which screeched the words to the night: 'Avada Kedavra!'

        The high, cold voice belongs, as we have learned, to Lord Voldemort, and the only other person in the graveyard (apart from the boys) is Wormtail, so it must, per necessity, be him that casts this spell as Rowling has confirmed[WBD-14]. The question is why? Why doesn't he have a wand for himself? Why doesn't Voldemort cast the spell (we learned in The Riddle House[GoF-1] that he was capable of casting the killing curse, when he cursed Frank Bryce).

        Wormtail is carrying Voldemort at the time and Harry first thinks he is carrying a baby. This may be a clue as to how Wormtail carried his lord, and that again may explain both why Voldemort couldn't cast the curse himself, and why Wormtail was carrying Voldemort's wand.

        As to why Wormtail didn't use his own wand it might be speculated that he didn't have one — he might have left his own wand when he confronted Black, but he should, at this time, have had time to get a new wand. Not necessarily one that has chosen him, but that is true also of Voldemort's wand. He could. e.g. be using Bertha Jorkin's wand. The only explanation I can come up with is that he was carrying Voldemort's wand in his hand.

      To the Top

    5. Snape

      Snape is probably one of the most debated subjects on AFH-P at all. The apparent contrast between Snape's behaviour towards the Gryffindor students and his role in the fight against Voldemort has proven so intriguing that numerous attempts has been made to build a consistent personality for him.
      The source material for any of the entries in this FAQ is overwhelming, and for the discussions of professor Severus Snape it is staggering. I am bound to have overlooked much of it in the relatively short summaries that are possible here. If you think that I have left out something important, then please either post your comments on AFH-P or mail them directly to me.

      It is important to understand that there seems to exist two paradigms on Snape, and that the followers of one paradigm finds it extremely difficult to understand the views of the followers of the other paradigm — and vice versa.

      1. Does Snape really want to teach Defence against the Dark Arts?

        The idea that Snape wants the job as teacher of Defence against the Dark Arts is introduced already in [PS-7] by Percy Weasley:

            'Who's that teacher talking to Professor Quirrell?' he asked Percy.
            'Oh, you know Quirrell already, do you? No wonder he's looking so nervous, that's Professor Snape. He teaches Potions, but he doesn't want to — everyone knows he's after Quirrell's job. Knows an awful lot about the Dark Arts, Snape.'

        The strongest evidence is, however, delivered in Educational Decree Number Twenty- Four[OotP-17], where Snape disclose to the Hogwarts High Inquisitor that he originally applied for the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, and that he has applied for it every time it was been vacant since.

            'You applied first for the Defence Against the Dark Arts post, I believe?' Professor Umbridge asked Snape.     'Yes,' said Snape quietly.


            'And you have applied regularly for the Defence Against the Dark Arts post since you first joined the school, I believe?'     'Yes,' said Snape quietly, barely moving his lips. He looked very angry.

        This is, however, contrasted by Hagrid's comments in [CoS-7]:

            It was most unlike Hagrid to criticise a Hogwarts' teacher and Harry looked at him in surprise. Hermione, however, said in a voice somewhat higher than usual, 'I think you're being a bit unfair. Professor Dumbledore obviously thought he was the best man for the job -'
            'He was the on'y man for the job,' said Hagrid, offering them a plate of treacle fudge, while Ron coughed squelchily into his basin. 'An' I mean the on'y one. Gettin' very difficult ter find anyone fer the Dark Arts job. People aren't too keen ter take it on, see. They're startin' ter think it's jinxed. No one's lasted long fer a while now.

        Despite much debate as whether Snape really wants the job prior to the release of book 5[OotP] there can now not be much doubt that Snape really does want to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts instead of Potions. Why then doesn't he get it? Why does Dumbledore hire someone like Gilderoy Lockhart instead of Snape when the DADA subject obviously is so extremely important; why would he allow the ministry to saddle him with a hopeless incompetent as Umbridge when he had Snape in reserve all the time — especially as Voldemort had just been reincarnated and Defence Against the Dark Arts had just become more important than ever? The answer, such as we have, can be found in Rowling's answers at the event at the Royal Albert Hall on June 26th 2003[RAH]

        Question from Jackson Long in audience competition winner:

        Professor Snape has always wanted to be Defence Against Dark Arts teacher. In book 5 he still hasn't got the job. Why does Professor Dumbedore not allow him to be Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher?


        That is an excellent question and the reason is that I have to be careful what I say here. To answer it fully would give a lot away about the remaining two books.
        When Professor Dumbledore took Professor Snape onto the staff and Professor Snape said "I'd like to be Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts please" and Professor Dumbledore felt it might bring out the worst in Snape so said "I think we'll get you to teach Potions and see how you get along there."

        While this does answer the question, and clearly shows that professor Snape did want the job, it also very strongly implies that there is more to the answer than Rowling was willing to disclose at that point. Possibly it is related to the interesting question of why does Dumbledore trust Snape, a question Rowling doesn't answer fully, though she insists that Dumbledore does trust Snape because he belives Snape's story[WBD-94].

        The evidence for and against Snape wanting the job in the first four books lead to much debate on AFH-P: See e.g. [AFH-P 020130], [AFH-P 020823], [AFH-P 020428] [AFH-P 011113] [AFH-P 030214] [AFH-P 010108]

      2. Is Snape a Vampire?

        This question is a very interesting by-product of the ongoing attempts to either demonise or sanctify the Hogwarts Potions master.

        The evidence which is advanced in favour of Snape being a vampire is:

        • His skin is repeatedly described as "sallow" — a skin colour that is defined as "yellowish," but which count such synonyms as anaemic, bloodless, pale and unhealthy according to the online Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus — 'sallow'. "He looked slightly paler than usual, and his cold, black eyes glittered strangely,"[GoF-36] (see also [AFH-P 030125], [AFH-P 021104]).
        • Just as Snape in [PoA-9] assigns the students an essay on werewolves in the hope that some of them would recognise Lupin's symptoms, Lupin has in [PoA-14] assigned his students an essay on vampires — and he uses this information to get Harry away from Snape. Is that payback time?
        • The bat references — e.g.
          • "'Yes, Severus does seem the type, doesn't he? So useful to have him swooping around like an overgrown bat. Next to him, who would suspect p-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell?'" [PS-17]
          • "'A bad idea, Professor Lockhart,' said Snape, gliding over like a large and malevolent bat." [CoS-11]
          • "'Not unless he can turn himself into a bat or something,' said Harry. 'Wouldn't put it past him,' Ron muttered" [GoF-29]
        • He always wears black
        • He has uneven teeth "Snape's uneven, yellowish teeth were bared.", [PoA-14].
        • He lives in a dungeon (actually we know that he teaches in a dungeon and has his office in the dungeon and that the Slytherin Common Room entrance is in the dungeons — we don't know where he lives)
        • He is often up late at night

        The primary argument against this theory is that Snape is seen outside in good weather at a Quidditch match [PS-11], and that it would have been remarked by someone if he never ate at the feasts — especially the Christmas dinner in [PoA-11] where Harry, Ron and Hermione sits at the same table as Snape.

        An excellent summation of much of the evidence can also be found in [AFH-P 020108].

        Unfortunately we also know that Rowling often twists the legends to make them fit what she needs in Potterverse — and there really isn't just one vampire legend, but rather a multitude of different legends that each has the vampire differ from the common Hollywood prototype. This makes it very hard to say anything definite.

        Though Rowling says that she doesn't think that "there is a link between Snape and vampires"[WBD-107], the clues above does seem almost too good to be accidental — or perhaps it is just so much misdirection by Rowling, though that seems unlikely. Can we postulate a subconscious connection <laughs>.

      3. Snape: Good or Evil?

        The ethics of Professor Severus Snape; perhaps the single most debated question on AFH-P. This is the essential question regarding Professor Snape.

        As described above, this question has its origin in the apparently conflicting information we get about Snape: He is cruel, mean, petty, vindictive etc. against his students (at least those from Gryffindor). He hates with unreasoning passion (see the last chapters of [PoA]) and he willingly joined Lord Voldemort during his first reign of terror (according to an interview with Rowling, Snape is 36 years old as of [GoF]. That is 13 years after the first fall of Lord Voldemort at which occasion Dumbledore noted that the magical community has "had precious little to celebrate for eleven years." This must then mean that Lord Voldemort's first reign was when Severus Snape was aged 12-23. It is unlikely in the extreme that he became a Death Eater before he was 15). On the other hand he saved Harry's life in Quidditch[PS-11], and according to Dumbledore's evidence to the Ministry of Magic he also turned from Lord Voldemort before his fall and even turned spy against Voldemort at great personal risk. In Snape's Worst Memory[OotP-28] we meet a Snape who appears to be victimised by bullies James Potter and Sirius Black, so what are people to believe (see also entry on Snapes pensieve memory)?

        This conflicting evidence has given rise to all sorts of opinions on Snape: from the "Snape is really good guy who is only tough on Harry because he needs to toughen Harry" theories to the "Snape is a double agent who is really spying for Voldemort and he is the blackest evil" kind of theories — and all position between those extremes as well.

        Also J.K. Rowling says: "Snape is the — er — very sadistic teacher" and "this particular teacher does abuse his power. He is not a — he is not a particularly pleasant person at all"[WBUR-18:51], and during the event in the Royal Albert Hall on June 19th, 2003[RAH] Rowling said, "you shouldn't think him too nice" in answer to Stephen Fry's comment about Snape that "slowly you get this idea he's not so bad after all."

        Attempting to summarise all the variants will be impossible — even summarising a number of the more prevalent theories on Snape will go beyond the scope of this document. Instead I will link to a number of AFH-P-threads on the various aspects of this subject: [AFH-P 000719], [AFH-P 000812], [AFH-P 000906], [AFH-P 010128], [AFH-P 010328], [AFH-P 010412], [AFH-P 010412], [AFH-P 010714], [AFH-P 011113], [AFH-P 011128], [AFH-P 020130], [AFH-P 020612], [AFH-P 020616], [AFH-P 021130], [AFH-P 021220],
        and of course the discussions have resurged with full strength after OotP:
        [AFH-P 030727], [AFH-P 030712], [AFH-P 030624], [AFH-P 030806], [AFH-P 030720], [AFH-P 030710].
        As can be seen Snape still has the ability to make normally rational debaters become quite emotional.

        We will have to wait and see what Rowling has in store for Severus Snape — personally I hope she leaves him an enigma, or at least waits to the end of book 7 before she reveals his character.

      4. Can we trust Snape's memory in the Pensieve?

        In Snape's Worst Memory[OotP-28] Harry learns some unpleasant things about his father and Sirius Black in particular. The unpleasant nature of this has led to a discussion of how trustworthy this memory is.

        In one extreme we have the position that this is Snape's memory of the event; remembered through a period of about twenty years and subjected to all the usual self-staging and improvement of one's own role that usually takes place with our memories. In other words this position holds that Snape's memory of the events is just as twisted and distorted as Snape himself is. The counter-argument that the memory (as other Pensieve scenes) obviously contains sounds and sights that Snape would not have been able to register can be met by pointing out our excellent capability for filling in details not only in our memories, but actually also in our immediate perception of our surroundings.

        At the other extreme position we find the opinion that the Pensieve itself provides as clarity and objectivity in the memories that are put into it. The many details which are revealed in the various Pensieve scenes, that the person putting them there could not possibly have registered, but wich we are nonetheless compelled to believe as true, are of course an important argument for this position.

        It might help to look at the previous scenes that look like this. I thinking, of course, of the Pensieve scenes in The Pensieve[GoF-30] and the diary scene in The Very Secret Diary[CoS-13] (when Harry finds himself in the court room in the Pensieve it were the similarities to his experience with Riddle's diary that made him realise that he was inside another person's memory, so I think it is fair to include the scene from CoS-13 in this analysis).

        In none of these previous scenes anyone has questioned the actual, objective, content of the memories, not even the very private scenes in Tom Riddle's memory. It is as if it is impossible to lie in such magical memories — not even the self-staging and self-deception that we humans normally engage in in our memories. That does, however, not mean that we can entirely trust what we see. The scene in The Very Secret Diary is cleverly designed to convince us that Hagrid really did open the Chamber of Secrets, and the trial of the Legranges and Crouch Jr in The Pensieve was constructed (along with Dumbledore's later explanations) to make us sympathise with Crouch Jr and seriously question his guilt. In these cases we, the readers, were being manipulated to make the same erroneous conclusions as Harry did. The same, however, does not appear to be the case with the two other scenes in The Pensieve; the hearings/trials of Karkaroff and Bagman. In both these it seems (so far, at least) that the conclusion that Karkaroff is a coward and Bagman a fool is correct. One final item that must be noted here is that in the two cases where someone's memory was meant to deceive us, the deceptions were revealed in the same book where we saw the memory. This is, however, not a certain guide as we cannot know if Rowling is saving the revelation of the "true" interpretation of Snape's Worst Memory for a later convenient plot point.

        In the end it seems that we should trust the objective events in Snape's Worst Memory. They are indeed also confirmed by Sirius and Remus in Careers Advice[OotP-29], when Harry contacts them to speak about his unpleasant experience with Snape's memory. "Of course he was a bit of an idiot!' said Sirius bracingly, 'we were all idiots! Well - not Moony so much ..." Sirius' comment quite clearly demonstrates that he (and Remus) are aware that their behaviour was unforgivable — perhaps even despicable. The answer to which interpretation of the memory we should accept; what motives and emotions caused the actions; seems far more uncertain.

        With respect to the interpretation of Snape's Worst Memory it would seem that only one thing is certain: the discussion will continue. As this discussion has produced some very interesting off-shoots (apart from the occasional outbreaks of anger and flaming) it would perhaps be advantegeous if Rowling doesn't answer that question. James acted as an idiot, but how idiotic was he? Snape was ostracised in school, but was he ostracised because he was a git who was too interested in the Dark Arts, or did he become a git who was too interested in the Dark Arts because he was ostracised? Leaving these questions open leaves some very interesting enigmas in the Harry Potter books which, IMO, is to the advantage of the series.

         When in a well-known place we are usually aware of far more of our surroundings than what we can see, and our ears pick up far more than what we consciously hear — especially when our conscious mind is preoccupied by something else, as e.g. how well we did on the exam we have just sit through ... (Back)

      To the Top

    6. Other people
      1. Who is Crookshanks?

        A lot of speculation has been devoted to the nature of this extremely intelligent cat, but with the advent of Rowling's official, but personal, web site, the question is answered once and for all. Crookshanks is half-Kneazle[JKR] [HPL-Kneazle] and not an Animagus[JKR].

        This entry, as it appeared before Rowling's website contained anything but a list of publishers, can be found in the old version of this FAQ.

      2. Why did the GoF DADA teacher teach Harry to resist the Imperius curse?

        This question relies on the following from [GoF-15]:

            'Potter,' Moody growled, 'you next.'
            Harry moved forward into the middle of the classroom, into the space that Moody had cleared of desks. Moody raised his wand, pointed it at Harry, and said, 'Imperio.'
            'Look at that, you lot ... Potter fought! He fought it, and he damn near beat it! We'll try that again, Potter, and the rest of you, pay attention — watch his eyes, that's where you see it — very good, Potter, very good indeed! They'll have trouble controlling you!'
            'The way he talks,' Harry muttered as he hobbled out of the Defence Against the Dark Arts class an hour later (Moody had insisted on putting Harry through his paces four times in a row, until Harry could throw off the curse entirely), 'you'd think we were all going to be attacked any second.'
            'Yeah, I know,' said Ron, who was skipping on every alternate step. He had had much more difficulty with the curse than Harry, though Moody assured him the effects would have worn off by lunchtime. [...] 'And when are we supposed to read up on resisting the Imperius Curse with everything else we've got to do?'

        It has been adduced that Crouch/Moody didn't really teach Harry to resist the curse, but that, instead, Harry already knew how to from the start. It is, however, clear that resisting the Imperius curse was the subject of the class — Crouch/Moody even set them homework on that subject. At the same time he put Harry under the curse four times in a row, "until Harry could throw off the curse entirely!" He may not have needed to teach Harry the basics, but he did give Harry the training he needed in order to be able to resist the curse completely.

        Another objection that has been advanced is that Crouch/Moody didn't know how to cast off the curse himself and thus couldn't teach it[AFH-P 010122]. This may be in contrast to the book itself, where we learn that just a few weeks before he starts teaching the class the technique he almost did throw off the Imperius curse completely himself — that is how he got hold of Harry's wand at the Quidditch World Cup[AFH-P 010122] [AFH-P 030130] and he "was starting to fight [his] father's Imperius Curse" so well that "there were times when [he] was almost [himself] again" and "brief periods when [he] seemed outside his [father's] control." He may not have been able to throw the curse of completely, but he did have some experience battling it. Furthermore it is a subject that the students are supposed to "read up on," which shows that it is considered something you can at least learn the theoretical basics of from a textbook (this is more or less the way it is normally taught: Crouch/Moody says that "Now, according to the Ministry of Magic, I'm supposed to teach you counter-curses and leave it at that." However, learning to actually do it; cast off the Imperius Curse; arguably requires practical training — despite their reading only Harry managed to cast off the curse in the first few attempts).

        A number of explanations have been advanced to account for Crouch/Moody's behaviour. Some of those are listed below:

        • He teaches Harry to improve Harry's chances of winning the Triwizard Tournament. E.g. because:
          "Crouch Jr. knows that Karkaroff was a Death Eater and knows that Karkaroff's school teaches the Dark Arts. He was probably worried that either Karkaroff or one of his students might try to put the Imperius Curse on Harry sometime during the tournament to force Harry to lose. And, since Crouch Jr.'s goal is for Harry to win, that would be A Bad Thing. So he teaches Harry to throw off the Imperius Curse in order to improve Harry's chances of winning." [AFH-P 000823]. [AFH-P 010122] [AFH-P 020129]
        • It's a misjudgement. He wanted to test Harry's strength and never imagined that Harry would be able to throw off the curse [AFH-P 000803]. [AFH-P 010122] [AFH-P 020129]
        • According to Crouch/Moody himself "Dumbledore wants you taught what it feels like," and he thus had no choice other than do his best like the real Alastor Moody would have done — otherwise he'd risk blowing his cover. [AFH-P 000803]. [AFH-P 000823] [AFH-P 010122] [AFH-P 020130] [AFH-P 020130] [AFH-P 020130]
        • A twisted sense of sportsmanship [AFH-P 000803].
        • Crouch's own experiences with the spell has made him despise the use of it and he now wishes that no one should ever be exposed to it again.

        Of course it might be a combination of any or all of the above. I don't suppose this will be cleared up in later books as Crouch Jr. has kissed by the Dementor, so you will have to decide what to believe for yourself.

      3. What about Mrs Figg?

        This question is made largely superfluous since the advent of book 5[OotP], and the old version can be read in the old version of this FAQ.

        The only part that might still become of interest is the idea that Mrs Arabella Figg may have some connection with Arthur Weasley's ministerial colleague, the old warlock Perkins, from whom Mr Weasley borrowed the tent they used at the Quidditch World Cup about which Harry noted that it was furnished in the exact same style as Mrs Figg's home, and that it smelled of cats.

      4. Are Lily and/or James still alive — or will they return?

        No! Rowling has in an interview with WBUR 'The Connection' in Boston clearly stated that "I'm afraid there will be no coming back fro- for Harry's parents."


        Peter, what is your guess about Lily — the real story about Harry's mother?


        Er — I don't really know, but I'm guessing that maybe she is gonna come back alive, maybe in the seventh book or something like that ...


        Well, it would be nice, but — I'll tell you something — you — you've raised a really interesting point there, Peter, because when I started writing the books, the first thing I had to decide was not what /can/ do, but what it /can't/ do.

        I had to set limits on it — immediately, and decide what the parameters are ... and one of the most important I — I decided was that _magic__cannot__bring__dead__people__back to life; that' — that's one of the most profound things, the — the natural law of — of — of death applies to wizards as it applies to Muggles and there is no returning once you're properly dead, you know, they might be able to save very close-to-death people better than we can, by magic — that they — that they have certain knowledge we don't, but once you're dead, you're dead.

        So — erm — yeah, I'm afraid there will be no coming back fro- for Harry's parents

        And Rowling answers the question again on her web site[JKR], again with the negative.

      5. What really happened with that veil in [OotP-35]?

        Let us first look at the archway with veil. The room with the archway is clearly called "the Death Room" in The Second War Begins[OotP-38], where it says about the prophecy record that "it had smashed while Harry was pulling him up the steps in the Death Room," and considering the type of rooms we see (rooms for Time, Prophecy, Thoughts/Intelligence (the brains), Dumbledore alluding to a room for the study of love etc.) it can be reasoned that the contents of this room are connected to the field of study. Furthermore "passing beyond the veil" is a standard metaphor for dying [AFH-P 030622] [AFH-P 030702] [AFH-P 030702] [AFH-P 030705] [AFH-P 030705], and the land beyond the veil is clearly the realm of the dead. We also have Luna's evidence also from The Second War Begins.

        ... And anyway, it's not as though I'll never see Mum again, is it?'
            'Er - isn't it?' said Harry uncertainly.
            She shook her head in disbelief.
            'Oh, come on. You heard them, just behind the veil, didn't you?'
            'You mean ...'
            'In that room with the archway. They were just lurking out of sight, that's all. You heard them.'

        All in all there can be little doubt that the Archway with the veil is some kind of one-way passage to the realm of the dead, and that it is in the Department of Mysteries for the study of Death itself.

        Now, the real question is of course, "is Sirius Black really dead?" To answer this question we need to look at various other quotations. The primary quotation is of course from The Lost Prophecy[OotP] where we are told the following,

            'Am I to understand,' said Phineas Nigellus slowly from Harry's left, 'that my great-great-grandson - the last of the Blacks - is dead?'
            'Yes, Phineas,' said Dumbledore.
            'I don't believe it,' said Phineas brusquely.

        This makes it quite plain that Dumbledore indeed is convinced that Sirius is dead. If this isn't enough, we have also Rowling's own words from the Paxman interview (BBC Newsnight[JP]) shortly before the release of OotP,

        J Paxman

        And is there going to be a death in this book?

        JK Rowling

        Yes. A horrible, horrible ...

        J Paxman

        A horrible death of a significant figure.

        JK Rowling

        Yeah. I went into the kitchen having done it ...

        J Paxman

        What, killed this person?

        JK Rowling

        Yeah. Well I had re-written the death, re-written it and that was it. It was definitive. And the person was definitely dead. And I walked into the kitchen crying and Neil said to me, "What on earth is wrong?" and I said, "Well, I've just killed the person". Neil doesn't know who the person is. But I said, "I've just killed the person. And he said, "Well, don't do it then." I thought, a doctor you know ... and I said "Well it just doesn't work like that. You are writing children's books, you need to be a ruthless killer."

        I have speculated of whether there could be any other death in OotP that fits this description; Rowling thinks it is "horrible, horrible" and she confirms that is is a "death of a significant figure;" but hitherto completely without success. There seems to little reason to doubt that Sirius Black really is dead. Especially when we correlate with what Rowling said in the Royal Albert Hall[RAH]

        Stephen Fry

        Very true ... very true we're not going to go into the business who dies because not everyone has read the book but did it did cause a stir when you admitted it caused you some distress Do you feel emotional about a lot of the characters you write?

        JK Rowling

        I do. What I was trying to do with the death in this book was that I wanted to show how very arbitrary and sudden death is. This is a death with no big deathbed scene — it happens almost accidentally. It's one of the cruel things about death and we're now in a war situation where that does happen. That's how it happens — one minute you are talking to your friend and the next minute he is gone, so shocking and inexplicable — one minute they are there but now where did they go? I found it upsetting to write because I knew what it would mean to Harry. [Edited]

        Some have speculated why Sirius had to die. The best reason that I have so far seen relies on his relationship with Harry. In an interview with the Boston radio show The Connection[tC-27] Rowling explained part of the ethical theme in the Harry Potter books,

        Erm ... Harry is someone is forced for such a young person to make his own choices. He has very limited access to truly caring adults - and he /is/ guided by his conscience. Now, Harry makes mistakes, repeatedly, erm Harry ha- ... did things like ... he did - he did steal the flying car, that was a very stupid thing to do, he - but it seemed like a great idea at the time, we've all been there - er - but ultimately Harry is guided by his conscience.

        Seeing how much Harry was starting to rely on Sirius for guidance, it seems almost inevitable that that guidance had to be taken away from him in order to further this theme of Harry having to make his own choices guided by his conscience. It is in this we, in my opinion, must seek the literary necessity of Sirius' death.

        Some has speculated that Sirius might come back, but it seems to be one of the most fundamental rules of Potterverse that the dead remain dead[tC-27].

        There might be a way for Harry to communicate with Sirius from beyond the veil; many clever suggestions have been made with that in mind, e.g. that Harry will be able to contact Sirius using the two-way mirror he got from Sirius, and which Rowling implies might show up again[WBD-10], but if the above is correct (that Sirius had to die because Harry was starting to rely too much on him) then this must be of very limited use for Harry — especially as this would potentially also give him access to his parents (who else would Sirius be spending his afterlife with ;-)

        In the end I think I ought to mention Rowling's answer when asked what form Sirius would take if we see him again. She said, "I couldn't possibly answer that for fear of incriminating myself.[WBD-13], though she also states that there was a reason for killing Sirius and apologises for doing it[WBD-106] What she meant by this is anybody's guess. I don't doubt that Sirius Black is dead — irrevocably dead; but as implied above that doesn't necessarily mean that we are never to see him again in any form. Besides communication with Sirius across the border it has been suggested that Sirius might have a magical portrait somewhere or that his personality lives on in some other kind of magical construct.

      6. Were James Potter and his friends called "The Marauders"?

        Did they call themselves that, or were they called so by others?

        This is actually a very curious question.

        The very basic answer is that we don't know for sure, but nothing in the books truly suggests it.

        The origin of this apparently lies in a misunderstanding of the name "The Marauder's Map". As it is written in the books, with the apostrophe before the 's', "marauder" is singular — the map of a marauder, not of more marauders.

        The name has, however, fed the imagination of the readers, in particular as the four friends, whether they were called so or not, certainly can be described as marauders. For instance in The Marauder's Map[PoA-10] Professor McGonagall said about James and Sirius in particular "Black and Potter. Ringleaders of their little gang. Both very bright, of course - exceptionally bright, in fact - but I don't think we've ever had such a pair of troublemakers -"

        In addition to that, we have another example of a change in a genitive form. The traditional name for the alchemical subject is "The Philosophers' Stone" — the stone of the philosphers, but as you will all know, this, in the first Harry Potter book this became "The Philosopher's Stone"; the stone of one philosopher (presumably Nicolas Flamel).

        Calling the "little gang" that James and Sirius were the ringleaders of "The Marauders" is convenient; it is certainly less cumbersome that calling them "James, Sirius, Remus and Peter" (or even writing their names in full), or using their nicknames, "Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs", and though the latter is sometimes abbreviated "MWPP" or "MWP&P", the acronym; in a world of acronyms, lacks the suggestive quality of "The Marauders" — "MWPP" doesn't really feed the imagination as does "The Marauders".

        There the matter has rested in the Harry Potter Fandom. We have debated, at times even argued, whether it would be appropriate to call the four friends "the Marauders", but now, after Rowling's web site has been updated to show more than a list of publishers, we can see JK Rowling herself refer to them as "the four marauders"[JKR] on her official web site.

        Personally I believe that she has encountered the name somewhere on the internet, found it as suggestive as the rest of us do, and that she has therefore started to use it. It would be amusing if she should refer to them in this way in the books: if the fandom could affect her in this way. Still, whether she do so or not; whether she originally intended them to have this name or not, my position is that what is good enough for Rowling is OK with me as well — the marauders it is.

      To the Top

  3. Magic
    1. Spells
      1. What's the difference between Charms, jinxes, Hexes and curses?

        It is not really possible to say for sure, but normal use would dictate the following definitions:


        Usually non-harmful (often positive) sorcery.


        Sorcery with a negative, long term effect.


        Sorcery with a negative and short-term effect. It will wear off.


        Sorcery with a negative effect, but cast on objects (as opposed to people).


        Generic term for spells with long-term effects. The effect can be both positive and negative.


        Generic term covering all of the above — and more. It can be used as a 'place holder' for all of the above.

        At a glance this seems to correspond well to the use in the Harry Potter books where an investigation of spell names reveal the following:






        Levitating Charm ('Wingardium Leviosa')[PS-11] (dubious)
        Alohomora charm[PS-16]
        Hover Charm[CoS-2]
        Memory Charm[CoS-3]
        Freezing Charm[CoS-6]
        Engorgement Charm[CoS-7]
        Homorphus Charm[CoS-10] (dubious)
        The bone-mending charm[CoS-10] (dubious)
        Disarming Charm[CoS-11]
        Tickling Charm[CoS-11]
        Flame Freezing Charm[PoA-1]
        Charm to Cure Reluctant Reversers[PoA-2]
        Braking Charm[PoA-4] Charm that repels a boggart ('Riddikulus')[PoA-7]
        Fidelius Charm[PoA-10]
        Cheering Charm[PoA-16]
        Patronus Charm[PoA-12]
        Confundus Charm[PoA-21]
        Summoning Charm[GoF-6]
        Repelling Charms[GoF-8]
        Scouring Charm[GoF-14]
        Severing Charm[GoF-23]
        Banishing Charm[GoF-26]
        Drought Charm[GoF-26]
        Bubble-Head Charm[GoF-26]
        Shield Charm[GoF-31]
        Unbreakable Charm[GoF-37]
        Cushioning Charm[FB]

        Curse of the Bogies[PS-9]
        Leg-Locker Curse [PS-13]
        Full Body-Bind Curse[PS-16]
        The slug belching curse[CoS-7]
        Babbling Curse[CoS-10]
        Imperius Curse[GoF-14]
        Cruciatus Curse[GoF-14]
        Killing Curse ('Avada Kedavra')[GoF-14]
        Conjunctivitus Curse[GoF-23]
        Reductor Curse[GoF-31]
        Impediment Curse[GoF-31]
        Furnunculus Curse[GoF-37]

        Hurling Hex[PoA-12]
        Instant scalping, pepper breath and horn tongue[GoF-20]
        Twitchy Ears[[GoF-28]

        Quirrell's broom jinx[PS-11] Jelly-Legs Jinx[GoF-31]

        Switching Spells[PS-9]
        AntiCheating spell[PS-16]
        Vanishing Spell[CoS-6] (dubious)
        Stunning Spells[GoF-19]
        Extinguishing Spells[GoF-19]
        Transforming Spell[GoF-22]
        Banishing Spell[GoF-29](the same as the Banishing Charm?)
        Four-Point Spell[GoF-31]
        Disarming Spell[GoF-31](the same as the Disarming Charm?)

        Other uses of 'hex' and 'jinx' suggest to me that those are used more or less interchangeably with 'curse' — at least I can't see anything to suggest where a possible division should be. Transfigurations seem to be always categorized as 'spells' (would this include a speculative Animagus Spell as part of the Animagus transformation?), while it would seem a reasonable guess that everything studied in Charms is a charm (hence the classification of the 'Wingardium Leviosa' as a 'Levitating Charm' — the name is not canonical — it might even be the 'Hover Charm').

        There are also some spells that aren't classified — 'Hair Loss,' and 'Tongue Tying' are in a book of curses in Diagon Alley[PS-5], but so is 'Jelly-Legs,' which is a known jinx. Then there's the 'Tarantallegra,' 'Serpensortia' and 'Finite Incantatem' from The Duelling Club[CoS-11], 'Waddiwasi' from The Boggart in the Wardrobe[PoA-7], 'Impervius!' from Grim Defeat[PoA-9], the 'MORSMORDRE', 'Enervate,' 'Prior Incatato' and 'Deletrius' from The Dark Mark[GoF-9] and the teeth-enlarging 'Densaugeo' in The Weighing of the Wands[GoF-18].

        The existence of Lockhart's 'Transmogrifian Torture'[CoS-7] or other of the spells Lockhart claims to have used or countered is, honestly, a bit dubious ...

        Furthermore 'jinx' is often used where one could expect 'curse' as in The Dementor[PoA-5]:

            Harry, Ron, and Hermione had already had two Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers, both of whom had lasted only one year. There were rumours that the job was jinxed.

        Not mentioning that Harry's Firebolt has to undergo a thorough checking for jinxes to see if it is jinx-free. As a part of this Professor McGonagall at one point tells Harry that "'We've checked for most of the usual curses, but Professor Flitwick believes the broom might be carrying a Hurling Hex" — further indications that 'hex' and 'jinx' are used as synonymous with 'curse.'

      To the Top

    2. Wands
      1. What makes two wands brothers?

        This question relies on two quotes — the first from Diagon Alley[PS-5] where Mr Ollivander says:

            'I remember every wand I've ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single wand. It so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, gave another feather — just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother — why, its brother gave you that scar.'

        The other quote is by Professor Dumbledore, Harry and Sirius Black in 'The Parting of the Ways'[GoF-36]:

            'Exactly,' said Dumbledore. 'Harry's wand and Voldemort's wand share cores. Each of them contains a feather from the tail of the same phoenix. This phoenix, in fact,' he added, and he pointed at the scarlet-and-gold bird, perching peacefully on Harry's knee.
            'My wand's feather came from Fawkes?' Harry said, amazed.
            'Yes,' said Dumbledore. 'Mr Ollivander wrote to tell me you had bought the second wand, the moment you left his shop four years ago.'
            'So what happens when a wand meets its brother?' said Sirius.
            'They will not work properly against each other,' said Dumbledore. 'If, however, the owners of the wands force the wands to do battle ... a very rare effect will take place.

        It is clear that Harry's and Voldemort's wands are brothers because the cores of the two wands come from the same animal — Dumbledore's Phoenix, Fawkes (this is what is called 'sharing cores'). It is, however, not clear whether this sharing of cores is a sufficient condition and / or a necessary condition for wands being brothers.

        The second quotation above strongly indicates that Sirius Black thinks that sharing cores is a sufficient condition for wands to be brothers, but we can't be sure that someone more knowledgeable than Black would know of extra conditions that must be met (e.g. the cores must possibly be harvested at the same time, so that taking a new feather from Fawkes now would not make the new wand a brother of Harry and Voldemort's). The indication is, however, that sharing cores is a sufficient condition.

        It is from the evidence impossible to tell if sharing cores is a necessary condition for brother wands. It is entirely possible that other combinations could be set up that would make brothers of two wands without them sharing cores. E.g. two wands taken from the same limb of the same tree and with cores of the same type could be brothers.

        The current consensus seems to be to assume that sharing cores is a sufficient conditions and to await further information before taking a stance on whether it is also a necessary condition.

      2. What was that Priori Incantatem effect?

        "The reverse spell effect" — according to Dumbledore — "a very rare effect" that takes place if the owners of two brother wands force them to fight.

            One of the wands will force the other to regurgitate spells it has performed — in reverse. The most recent first ... and then those which preceded it ...'

        This is what we learn from Dumbledore — but then we have the events in the chapter Priori Incantatem[GoF-34] (a chapter name we, by the way, only learn the significance of in two chapters later unless we're good at Latin). The events that occur are (quotations from chapter 34 of GoF: Priori Incantatem):

        1. The jets of light from the two spells meet in mid-air.
        2. The wands begin to vibrate and the beam of light connecting them turns gold.
        3. The two wizards are lifted from the ground and come to rest "... on a patch of ground that is clear ..."
        4. The beam of light connecting the wands splinters to create "... a golden, dome-shaped web, a cage of light, ..."
        5. Phoenix song fills the air. Note: It is entirely possible that this depends on the wand cores.
        6. The wands vibrate more powerfully.
        7. The beam between the wands changes: beads of light appear, sliding up and down.
        8. The wizards attempt to force the beads of light into the other wand.
        9. As the nearest bead moves nearer the wand grows very hot and it vibrates very strongly (Harry fears that his wand will burst into flame from the heat or shatter from the vibrations).
        10. When a bead is forced into contact with a wand, that wand begins "to regurgitate spells it has performed — in reverse" for as long as the connection between the wands is maintained.

        Those are the steps as described in the relevant chapter. One or more of these steps may be specific to this particular meeting, but on the whole a fight between two other brother wands is likely to follow the same pattern. The precise mechanism behind some of the steps has been discussed — e.g. by what exact mechanism the wizards make the beads of light move — what quality with the wizard decides the issue (concentration, mental power, physical stamina, magical power ... the list of possibilities is long). The only clue in the text is about Harry: "He concentrated every last particle of his mind upon forcing the bead backwards towards Voldemort" and "but he now concentrated as he had never done in his life, on forcing that bead of light right back into Voldemort's wand ..." Those quotes can be used to support almost anything as it takes concentration to focus all the qualities that have been mentioned in this connection.

        On a related note, the first printings of GoF had James Potter emerge before Lily Potter from Voldemort's wand in this chapter. This is discussed in PVFAQ-VIA4

      To the Top

    3. Other questions about magic
      1. What is this about underage magic?

        When Dobby levitates Aunt Petunia's "masterpiece of a pudding" in Dobby's Warning[CoS-2] Harry gets a note from the Ministry of Magic saying:

        Dear Mr. Potter,
            We have received intelligence that a Hover Charm was used at your place of residence this evening at twelve minutes past nine.
            As you know, underage wizards are not permitted to perform spells outside school, and further spellwork on your part may lead to expulsion from said school (Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, 1875, Paragraph C).
            We would also ask you to remember that any magical activity that risks notice by members of the non-magical community (Muggles) is a serious offence under section 13 of the International Confederation of Warlocks' Statute of Secrecy.
            Enjoy your holidays!
            Yours sincerely,
            Mafalda Hopkirk
            Ministry of Magic

        This of course emphasises the comment from The Man with Two Faces[PS-17]: "notes were handed out to all students, warning them not to use magic over the holidays ('I always hope they'll forget to give us these,' said Fred Weasley sadly)."

        The letter from CoS-2 suggests some kind of surveillance. This surveillance is imagined to be able to tell which spells are being cast in the monitored areas, but the letter clearly shows that the Ministry is unable to detect who the caster is. The surveillance is normally imagined to be magical in nature, but other kinds can obviously be imagined.

        The surveillance is once more implied in A Peck of Owls[OotP-5], where Harry receives another letter from Mafalda Hopkirk concerning his casting of the Patronus Charm.

        The main problem with any such surveillance is of course the numerous transgressions we witness or hear about that apparently doesn't get any notice:

        • Hermione apparently got away with trying "a few simple spells just for practice"[PS-6] already before the start of their very first term.
        • And what about Fred and George Weasley? All that inventing joke stuff — and the explosions we hear about in Weasley's Wizard Wheezes[GoF-5] — are we to believe that they did that without casting a single spell?
        • The 'Lumos' charm Hermione use at the Quidditch World Cup[GoF-9].
        • All the curses Snape knew when he started school[GoF-27].
        • Lily Evans performed magic in her holidays[PS-4]:
              'You knew?' said Harry. 'You knew I'm a — a wizard?'     'Knew!' shrieked Aunt Petunia suddenly. 'Knew! Of course we knew! How could you not be, my dratted sister being what she was? Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that — that school — and came home every holiday with her pockets full of frog-spawn, turning teacups into rats. I was the only one who saw her for what she was — a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!'

        The easy answer to the 'how's and 'why's of this is that we don't know! This, however, hasn't stopped people from speculating (and who would want that?), and many have come up with various ideas. The speculations include:

        • Underage magic is only disallowed when it can be noticed by Muggles or in the Muggle world[AFH-P 001124].
        • The "Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery" is not enforced in magical households[AFH-P 020924].
        • Child magic is allowed under the guidance of an adult witch or wizard[AFH-P 001124].
        • It is only Harry who is under this surveillance (see also the question 'How is Harry protected at Privet Drive 4?' [AFH-P 010412]. This idea is very much strengthened by Madam Bones' assertion in 'The Hearing'[OotP-8], where she says about Little Whinging "'That situation has always been closely monitored, given ... given past events.' Thus we learn that Little Whinging is watched more closely than other places — or at least that it is among a small select group of places that are more closely monitored.
        • There is no surveillance by the Ministry. Mafalda Hopkirk received her intelligence from someone else (e.g. Dobby himself)[AFH-P 030220]. This theory has, however, been invalidated by information in The Hearing[OotP-8] that "That situation has always been closely monitored."
        • The rule doesn't apply until the student starts school.

        Some of these speculations are partial in that they cannot explain all the exceptions.

        Whatever the reason it is clear that the Decree is not normally enforced very strictly, so the interesting question becomes what caused the letter to Harry, rather than why the others got away (we might also wonder what made Fred complain about the note — after all he ought to know that there wouldn't be any repercussions). I can see three possible explanations for the letter to Harry:

        1) He is in a Muggle home where magic is not tolerated. This will require that the Ministry of Magic know about the Dursleys' attitude to magic, but it will explain why Lily and Hermione doesn't have any problems.

        2) He is Harry Potter — "The Boy who Lived!" Harry is protected due to his very special position. It might be expected that an old Death Eater could suddenly decide to take his frustrations out on Harry. If Harry's deeds in [PS] had become publicly known (or just known to the Ministry of Magic) it would even have been reasonable to tighten the security around Harry during the next summer holiday.

        3) There is no extra protection or surveillance of Harry from the Ministry of Magic. He might be protected by wizards working for Dumbledore, and the Ministry was told by either one of those or by Dobby himself — the former would require that the person guarding Harry is either extremely rule-bound or has a grudge against Harry despite working to protect him (do we know how Snape spent that summer? ;-)

      2. What makes magic stronger?

        I have debated with myself what to title this entry. I started out, ambitiously, imagining an entry on "What is magic?" but I soon had to realise that we simply don't have any indication about that, so I quickly abandoned that idea ;-) What we may have, however, is some idea of what qualities help in making magic stronger or weaker, and that is what I am going to focus upon.

        First about the entire concept of magical power; if we want to discuss which factors influence the magical power we need to have at least some kind of common idea of what it is. The concept is introduced in the books, but it is, unfortunately, not really explained.

        Being of limited imagination I can't imagine how a "thaumometer" could work — or indeed what it should measure, so I will, for the purpose of this discussion, suggest something which is quantifiable to us Muggles. E.g. the distance the witch or wizard can throw a standard weight using the Disarming Charm or the Banishing Charm; or the size of the hole he or she can blast in a standard brick wall using the Reductor Curse. This kind of metric might have an immanent injustice as we know that some wizards are better at some disciplines than others — Rowling has, for instance, said[SWNS1] that Harry "is becoming exceptionally good at Defence Against the Dark Arts," and that DADA is "the one area in which, almost instinctively, he is particularly talented. Apart from Quidditch." — but even without specifying every single test we might imagine that tests like the above could be deviced for every discipline so that the witch's or wizard's overall power can be measured.

        Now, having established, for the purpose of this discussion, a metric for magical power, we can proceed to take a look at what factors influence the power of a given evocation of magic.

        Inherent power

        Voldemort is described as "the most powerful Dark wizard for a century;" Bartemius Crouch Sr is said to be "powerfully magical" and Neville declares himself that "everyone knows I'm almost a Squib."These descriptions seems to indicate that there is an inherent level of power for each wizard just as our genes have something to do with our intelligence and physical power. The differences in the evocation of accidental magic between e.g. little Harry and little Neville also point in the same direction. It is difficult to just how important this inherent power is — it may, as with intelligence or muscle strength, have relatively little influence on the power of an adult wizard, but on the other hand the implication in the books seems to be that it is of some importance; that most witches and wizards do achieve their full potential or almost so.


        In GoF the DADA teacher tells the class that "Avada Kedavra's a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it - you could all get your wands out now and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I'd get so much as a nosebleed" which implies that he considers the fourth year students to be too weak yet to be able to put sufficient power behind their magic to cast the killing curse.

        During the event in the Royal Albert Hall shortly after the release of OotP (June 19th, 2003), Rowling said[RAH], "Harry is not a good enough wizard yet to even attempt to take on Voldemort as wizard to wizard" where the use of "yet" seems to imply that Harry eventually will become good enough.

        Even if we accept that a witch's or wizard's ability to put magical power behind their evocations of magic grows, there is no indication as to why. It may be a simple matter of training while their inherent power remains constant, or it may be that what I called the inherent power above develops over time, just as the capability of our body to support muscle mass grows until we're fully grown. Whatever the reason, it appears that the strength of the wizards and witches do grow — perhaps only until they reach their full growth, but possibly (if training is the crucial factor) it may grow until they reach their full potential; the inherent power mentioned above.

        Will / Wish

        I treat will and wish as one item here — as a measure of how strongly the witch or wizard wants the spell effect to happen. That this has an effect on the magic is illustrated both by Bellatrix Lestrange's assertion in The Only One He Ever Feared[OotP-36] that "You need to mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain -" and by accidental magic, where even strong emotions by themselves are insufficient to evoke the magic.


        When Lupin teaches Harry the Patronus Charm in The Patronus[PoA-12] "'with an incantation, which will work only if you are concentrating, with all your might, on a single, very happy memory.'" and later, in Priori Incantatem[GoF-34], when Harry fights Voldemort in the Priori Incantatem effect, we are twice told how Harry concentrates "every last particle of his mind" and "as he had never done in his life." Also in The First Task[GoF-20] when Harry is learning to summon his Firebolt, he needs to concentrate on the item he wants to summon. When, in the beginning, he had problems because "The books and quills kept losing heart halfway across the room and dropping hike stones to the floor," Hermione tells him to "Concentrate, Harry, concentrate ..." After Harry learns to concentrate sufficiently he has no more problems.

        There can be little doubt that concentration helps when casting magic — and that it strengthens the casting.


        There are plenty of examples of emotions playing a part in making magic come about. Accidental magic happening when Harry is afraid or angry, the Patronus Charm needing a happy thought/memory, the Cruciatus Curse requiring the caster to take pleasure in causing pain etc. The accidental magic in particular seems interesting, as it would seem that the stronger the emotion is, the stronger (or so it appears) is the, unintended, magical affect. When Harry were shaking with anger at Aunt Marge's insinuations about his parents, he managed to inflate her, but when he was just angry with Dudley for pushing him away from the snake in PS, the effect was merely that the glass vanished.


        That training influences a wizard's ability to cast spells should be incontroversial — Harry training for the third task in GoF, and Neville developing under the training in DA. That it increases the power of the spell-casting is, perhaps not quite as obvious. As mentioned under "age", there is some clear evidence that the wizard's power increase in time, but it is unclear whether this is due to an aspect of the physical maturing, or if it is due to the training she or he recieves in the same period. It might, of course also be a combination of both.

        Knowledge / Skill

        Swish and flick and remember to "make the 'gar' nice and long ..." Oh, yes. Skill and knowledge are important - it is necessary in order to cast spells, and that is the basis for it all. What does it help to have the world's strongest legs if you can only lift weights with your arms?

        While there seems to be little argument that these elements all contribute to the strength of a witch's or wizards magic, the relative importance is very much arguable.

      3. What is Arithmancy?

        I have long wondered about that. Just what on Earth do they teach in Arithmancy. Finally I've found a little tidbit that gives at least some of the explanation. From the event in the Royal Albert Hall on 26 June, 2003[RAH].

        Stephen Fry

        Absolutely, I mean if you can't write new characters in new books that would be a bit hard on you. Can you explain in words of not more that two syllables, What is Arithmancy?

        JK Rowling

        Well your guess is as good as mine Stephen. Arithmancy is predicting the future using numbers. I've decided there's a bit of numerology in there as well but how you do it I really don't know.

        Stephen Fry

        Well that's very honest of you thank goodness for that.

        Apart from that the teacher, Professor Vector, is of course named after the mathematical construct, a vector. I think that this is as close as we can get — and given Rowling's general aptitude for numbers (see e.g. [TFO1] and [TFO3]) I don't think we'll ever get a clearer answer than this.

      To the Top

  4. Creatures and people
    1. Beings, Beasts and Spirits
      1. What are beings beasts and spirits?

        According to [FB] a being is "any creature that has sufficient intelligence to understand the laws of the magical community and to bear part of the responsibility in shaping those laws." Unfortunately there are some notable exceptions to this in a footnote to the explanation "an exception was made for the ghosts, who asserted that it was insensitive to class them as 'beings' when they were so clearly 'has-beens'. Stump therefore created the three divisions of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures that exist today: the Beast Division, the Being Division and the Spirit Division." So here we find the origin for the division of Magical Creatures into Beasts, Beings and Spirits. Unfortunately the only clue to the establishment of the Spirit Division is the assertion of the ghosts, which makes it questionable whether all spirits must also be describable as 'has-beens'.

        Yet another complication entered the use of this trichotomy: the willing choice of some species not to be beings. Thus we read in footnote 3 to the introduction in [FB]: "The centaurs objected to some of the creatures with whom they were asked to share 'being' status, such as hags and vampires, and declared that they would manage their own affairs separately from wizards. A year later the merpeople made the same request. The Ministry of Magic accepted their demands reluctantly."

        Thus we know what beings are — and that there are some beasts that could have been beings save for their own request not to be. Unfortunately we don't know where the border is between spirits and beings or beasts unless the original 'has-beens' is maintained for the spirits.

        The last question I wish to address here is whether [FB] can be considered exhaustive. The simple answer is that we don't know. According to Mr Scamander's own introduction the book starts as "an authoritative compendium of magical creatures", which may give some indication. One position could be that the book is exhaustive with regards to beasts that are kept hidden from Muggles, another that the book is exhaustive with respect to beasts we'll meet in the Harry Potter books, while a third position could be that [FB] is neither. This question becomes interesting when we attempt to classify creatures in the Harry Potter books that are not mentioned in [FB] — are they precluded from being beasts?

      2. How did they cure Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington with the Mandrake Potion?

        The question is of course how they managed to administer a potion to a ghost who hasn't been able to eat for nearly four hundred years[PS-7]?

        Many have — with varying degrees of seriousness — attempted an explanation. Below I offer only a selection of those:

        • "They usually make the potion from live Mandrakes Which is what they did for the humans. But (Listen carefully it gets complicated) For NHN they killed the Mandrake and used the ghost Mandrake potion. Oh and before you ask they used the little known and extremely rare Catdrakes for Mrs. Norris! :-)"[AFH-P 030210].
        • "He drank it through a plothole"[AFH-P 030210].
        • They made an infusion of alcohol to make it spirits.
        • They distilled the potion to get the spirits of it.
        • They sprayed it (a potion mist).
        • I like the idea of evaporating the potion (thus "killing" it) and wafting the steam (its "ghost") at Sir Nicholas[AFH-P 021208].
        • They immersed him in the steam/vapour from a boiling Mandrake Potion (Ernie wafting Sir Nicholas to the hospital shows that he is affected by gases).
        • As none of the victims were able to drink, the potion was applied externally in all cases. They used a spell to make Sir Nicholas temporarily solid for the application of the potion.

        As always the ingenuity and collective creative genius of the group on AFH-P astound me ;-)

      3. What are the differences (if any) between Ghosts and Poltergeists?

        This discussion relies to a large extent on a comment made by Sir Nicholas to the Fat Friar in [PS-7]: "My dear Friar, haven't we given Peeves all the chances he deserves? He gives us all a bad name and you know, he's not really even a ghosts — ..."

        If we assume that Sir Nicholas really knows what he is talking about, then it would appear that Peeves, who is repeatedly referred to as a poltergeist, is something different from ghosts.

        Even in this case it is, however, not easy to discern what those differences are, exactly. It has been suggested that the ghosts are always insubstantial, while Peeves (the only poltergeist we know of) always appear solid (banging the armours, ruining the furniture etc.) This view is unfortunately complicated by Moaning Myrtle splashing water [CoS] and even unconsciously getting flushed out into the lake[GoF-25] — which shows that ghosts can be affected by and affect at least fluids.

        An attempt at a compromise has been suggested by Kevin Karpenske in the form that it is the poltergeist that lacks the ability to become incorporeal[AFH-P 021009]. This would appear to solve most of the objections raised against the differences (apart from linguistic arguments insisting that since poltergeist is merely German for 'noisy ghost' this most also be the case in Potterverse[AFH-P 021004]). Once more we must ask the reader to either decide for herself (or himself) or gather his or her patience while waiting to see if the answer appears in a later book.

      4. What are Vampires?

        Apart from knowing that they exist and that they are classified as beings (see [PVFAQ-IVA1]), we know preciously little about the vampires of Potterverse. It is impossible to tell if this is deliberate — e.g. in order to keep us guessing about the nature of Snape.

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    2. Uncategorized Creatures
      1. What are Dementors?

        The short version: we do not know.

        If [FB] is believed to be exhaustive with respect to beasts mentioned in the books (up to and including [GoF]) then we must conclude that Dementors are not beasts.

        If the 'has-beens' is what signifies a spirit (see What are beings beasts and spirits?) then the Dementors' hands, "glistening, greyish, slimy-looking, and scabbed, like something dead that had decayed in water", might signify that they are indeed spirits.

        None of the above arguments rely on very safe grounds: we cannot be sure that [FB] is exhaustive, and we cannot be sure that 'has-beens' is the necessary and sufficient condition for spirits.

        As for what we know about Dementors, apart from their appearance, most of it stems from Remus Lupin and Sirius Black.

        They are described as "a cloaked figure that towered to the ceiling. Its face was completely hidden beneath its hood. Harry's eyes darted downwards, and what he saw made his stomach contract. There was a hand protruding from the cloak and it was glistening, greyish, slimy-looking, and scabbed, like something dead that had decayed in water ..."[PoA-5], and later "Where there should have been eyes, there was only thin, grey scabbed skin, stretched blankly over empty sockets. But there was a mouth ... a gaping, shapeless hole, sucking the air with the sound of a death-rattle"[PoA-20].

        As for more about the Dementors, we have a few clues from various persons:

            'They are stationed at every entrance to the grounds,' Dumbledore continued, 'and while they are with us, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises — or even Invisibility Cloaks,' he added blandly, and Harry and Ron glanced at each other. 'It is not in the nature of a Dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. I look to the prefects, and our new Head Boy and Girl, to make sure that no student runs foul of the Dementors.'

        (Dumbledore in The Dementor[PoA-5])

            'I do not believe a single person inside this castle would have helped Black enter it,' said Dumbledore, and his tone made it so clear that the subject was closed that Snape didn't reply. 'I must go down to the Dementors,' said Dumbledore. I said I would inform them when our search was complete.'
            'Didn't they want to help, sir?' said Percy.
            'Oh yes,' said Dumbledore coldly. 'But I'm afraid no Dementor will cross the threshold of this castle while I am Headmaster.'

        (Dumbledore and Percy in Grim Defeat[PoA-9])

            'Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can't see them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself ... soulless and evil. You'll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life. And the worst that happened to you, Harry, is enough to make anyone fall off their broom. You have nothing to feel ashamed of.'

        (Professor Lupin in The Marauder's Map[PoA-10])

            'They call it the Dementor's Kiss,' said Lupin, with a slightly twisted smile. 'It's what Dementors do to those they wish to destroy utterly. I suppose there must be some kind of mouth under there, because they clamp their jaws upon the mouth of the victim and — and suck out his soul.'
            Harry accidentally spat out a bit of Butterbeer.
            'What — they kill -?'
            'Oh no,' said Lupin. 'Much worse than that. You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you'll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no ... anything. There's no chance at all of recovery. You'll just — exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone for ever ... lost.'

        (Harry & Professor Lupin in The Patronus[PoA-12])

            'I don't know how I did it,' he said slowly. 'I think the only reason I never lost my mind is that I knew I was innocent. That wasn't a happy thought, so the Dementors couldn't suck it out of me ... but it kept me sane and knowing who I am ... helped me keep my powers ... so when it all became ... too much ... I could transform in my cell ... become a dog. Dementors can't see, you know ...' He swallowed. 'They feel their way towards people by sensing their emotions ... they could tell that my feelings were less — less human, less complex when I was a dog ... but they thought, of course, that I was losing my mind like everyone else in there, so it didn't trouble them. But I was weak, very weak, and I had no hope of driving them away from me without a wand ...' 'But then I saw Peter in that picture ... I realised he was at Hogwarts with Harry ... perfectly positioned to act, if one hint reached his ears that the Dark Side was gathering strength again ...'

        (Sirius Black in The Servant of Lord Voldemort[PoA-19])

            He could feel them watching him, hear their rattling breath like an evil wind around him. The nearest Dementor seemed to be considering him. Then it raised both its rotting hands — and lowered its hood.
            Where there should have been eyes, there was only thin, grey scabbed skin, stretched blankly over empty sockets. But there was a mouth ... a gaping, shapeless hole, sucking the air with the sound of a death-rattle.

        (The Dementor's Kiss[PoA-20])

            There was a simple reason for Sirius's complete absence from Harry's life until then — Sirius had been in Azkaban, the terrifying wizard gaol guarded by creatures called Dementors, sightless, soul-sucking fiends who had come to search for Sirius at Hogwarts when he had escaped.

        (The Scar[GoF-2])

            'He wasn't the only one,' said Sirius bitterly. 'Most go mad in there, and plenty stop eating in the end. They lose the will to live. You could always tell when a death was coming, because the Dementors could sense it, they got excited.
        [...] Crouch never came for his son's body. The Dementors buried him outside the fortress, I watched them do it.'

        (Sirius Black in Padfoot Returns[GoF-27])

            'The Lestranges should stand here,' said Voldemort quietly. 'But they are entombed in Azkaban. They were faithful. They went to Azkaban rather than renounce me ... when Azkaban is broken open, the Lestranges will be honoured beyond their dreams. The Dementors will join us ... they are our natural allies ... we will recall the banished giants ... I shall have all my devoted servants returned to me, and an army of creatures whom all fear ...'

        (Lord Voldemort in The Death Eaters[GoF-33])

            But Crouch took another deep breath and continued in the same flat voice. 'The Dementors are blind. They sensed one healthy, one dying person entering Azkaban. They sensed one healthy, one dying person leaving it. My father smuggled me out, disguised as my mother, in case any prisoners were watching through their doors.

        (Bartemius Crouch Junior in Veritaserum[GoF-35])

        Finally J.K. Rowling herself in the TV documentary "Harry & Me" describes the Dementors as producing a depression in their victims — a very telling description.

        Now all of this tells us some characteristics of the Dementors, though not nearly as much as we'd like to ;-)

        The Dementors sport rotting, putrid flesh — at least on their hands, and though they are eyeless and blind it would they do have eye sockets, only these are covered with grey scabbed skin. Like the Ringwraiths from Tolkien, the Dementors like to dress in black, flowering robes, but while Tolkien's monsters emits raw, soul-chilling terror, Rowling's Dementors cause a deep, black depression in their victims. I am sure that someone with that inclination could see a lot in the similarities — and especially the differences — of those two types of monsters.

        The final weapon of the two black-robed monster types are also quite similar: they both steal your soul, but while Tolkien's Ringwraiths had to use a weapon to accomplish this (the Morgul blade), Rowling's Dementors just have to kiss their victim, leaving the victim's body soulless — a truly terrifying prospect, which has caused some discussion of Dementors in AFH-P: [AFH-P 040315]. [AFH-P 030730] [AFH-P 021229] [AFH-P 021021] [AFH-P 020220] [AFH-P 001010] [AFH-P 000815].

        It has been speculated whether or not the Dementors are capable of turning of their draining "peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them," but no solution has been reached, though most agree that even if they could turn it off, they would not do it except in the rarest situations.

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  5. Places
    1. Hogwarts
      1. Where is Hogwarts?

        Hogwarts is located in Scotland.

        First from an on-line chat at Barnes & Noble's website [BN2]:


        Is Hogwarts possibly located in Scotland? I am an American and have never been to the United Kingdom, but from reading the first book and going by the train station Harry leaves from and how long the trip takes, I am guessing it may be Scotland? Thank you.


        You are absolutely right. If you travel north from King's Cross, you do indeed arrive in Scotland.

        Taken alone this is of course no more than a confirmation that Rowling knows where Scotland is, but it is still worth mentioning in connection with the other evidence.

        Secondly we have the evidence from [CoS], where Harry and Ron flies in the car to Hogwarts. In [CoS-5] we find:

            'Can't be much further, can it?' croaked Ron, hours later still, as the sun started to sink into their floor of cloud, staining it a deep pink. 'Ready for another check on the train?'
            It was still right below them, winding its way past a snow-capped mountain. It was much darker beneath the canopy of clouds.


            'Silence!' said Snape coldly. 'What have you done with the car?'
            Ron gulped. This wasn't the first time Snape had given Harry the impression of being able to read minds. But a moment later, he understood, as Snape unrolled today's issue of the Evening Prophet.
            'You were seen,' he hissed, showing them the headline: FLYING FORD ANGLIA MYSTIFIES MUGGLES. He began to read aloud: '"Two Muggles in London, convinced they saw an old car flying over the Post Office tower ... at noon in Norfolk, Mrs. Hetty Bayliss, while hanging out her washing ... Mr. Angus Fleet, of Peebles, reported to police" ... Six or seven Muggles in all. I believe your father works in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office?' he said, looking up at Ron and smiling still more nastily. 'Dear, dear ... his own son ...'

        Snow capped mountains on 1st September in Great Britain is most likely in the Scottish Highlands.

        And using Streetmap.co.uk I could only find two places called Peebles (first and third search result being identical) — both in Scotland:

        Peebles, Scottish Borders [City/Town/Village]

        Peebles, Angus between Dundee and Aberdeen

        And finally the evidence of [FB]. In the entry of the Acromantula there is a note that reads "Rumours that a colony of Acromantula has been established in Scotland are unconfirmed.". The word "unconfirmed" is crossed over and the following is added in handwriting: "confirmed by Harry Potter and Ron Weasley" in what purports to be Harry's handwriting.

      2. Is Hogwarts the only wizarding school on the British Isles?

        This question is often asked, but the sad truth is that we don't know for sure.

        There are a few passages in the books that seems to imply that Hogwarts is indeed the only school of magic on the British Isles, most specifically Harry and Ron's conversation in Bagman and Crouch[GoF-7]

        More to stop Ron from smirking than anything, Harry hurriedly pointed out a large group of teenagers whom he had never seen before.
            'Who d'you reckon they are?' he said. 'They don't go to Hogwarts, do they?'
            ''Spect they go to some foreign school,' said Ron. 'I know there are others. Never met anyone who went to one, though. Bill had a pen-friend at a school in Brazil ... this was years and years ago ... and he wanted to go on an exchange trip but Mum and Dad couldn't afford it. His penfriend got all offended when he said he wasn't going and sent him a cursed hat. It made his ears shrivel up.'
            Harry laughed but didn't voice the amazement he felt at hearing about other wizarding schools. He supposed, now he saw representatives of so many nationalities in the campsite, that he had been stupid never to realise that Hogwarts couldn't be the only one. He glanced at Hermione, who looked utterly unsurprised by the information. No doubt she had run across the news about other wizarding schools in some book or other.

        The point is that Ron's immediate reaction to unknown teenagers is that they must "go to some foreign school" (my emphasis) rather than to another British School.

        Another point arise from an interview with South West News[SWNS1]:

        J Question

        Can American kids go to Hogwarts? (Kelly)

        JK Rowling

        No, they have their own school. You'll find out in Book 4. Hogwarts just serves Britain and Ireland.

        Now, this does obviously not say that Hogwarts is the only school serving Britain and Ireland, but the implication is there especially because she does say that the American kids "have their own school" — singular: the American kids have one school, in which case the school known to serve the British Isles is probably also the only one doing that.

        A point which is often raised to the contrary is Hagrid's statement in The Keeper of the Keys[PS-4] that Hogwarts is "the finest school of witchcraft and wizardry in the world." This is sometimes misquoted to say the finest school in Britain (this might be under influence of the film).

        A more significant problem with the assumption that Hogwarts is the only magical school for the British Isles is that the school at most has about a thousand students (see the question about the number of students at Hogwarts), which is insufficient to account for the number of witches and wizards in Britain and Ireland. Making a very rough estimate wizards live on average for perhaps 140 years (Dumbledore is about 150 years old), in which case there can at most be about 20,000 people in the magical community on the British Isles (and probably less as there tends to be more youngsters per year of age than older people), and that is hardly enough for a sustainable population, and it doesn't seem to fit well with the implications of the books (e.g. the 100,000 seats at the Quidditch World Cup). This is of course just made worse if one believes in one of the smaller guesses for the number of students. However, I have elsewhere (e.g. [TFO1] and [TFO3]) made the point that Rowling doesn't appear to consider mathematical consistency when she chooses her numbers, and I don't think that mathematical arguments are of much use in these cases.

      3. How many students are there at Hogwarts?

        This question has taken up quite a lot of bandwidth in the various on-line Harry Potter communities.

        Had we been less exacting we might have just taken Rowling's word at face value, but unfortunately it isn't quite that easy.

        The primary problem is that the evidence isn't consistent. On one hand Rowling has said that there is about a thousand students at Hogwarts[SC2].


        How many students attend Hogwarts, and how many students per year per house?


        There are about a thousand students at Hogwarts.

        On the other hand it is clear that Harry's year consists of only 41 students[TFO2], which is one hundred less than the average needed to account for the thousand students total. The other six years need to average 160 students to reach the thousand — four times as many as in Harry's year.

        The books contain evidence that point in both directions, as well as pointing somewhere in between, and therefore the question becomes rather complex. The whole question about the number of students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is dealt with in detail in an essay[TFO3]

      4. Apparating etc. at Hogwarts?

        Another of the often discussed questions about Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is the defences against teleportive magic — in particular Apparating and Disapparating.

        Both Hermione (quoting that noble companion of hers: Hogwarts, a History) and Snape have assured us, in Snape's case with great emphasis, that "YOU CAN'T APPARATE OR DISAPPARATE INSIDE THIS CASTLE!" ("this castle" obviously being Hogwarts). However, we have seen both Dobby and Fawkes disappear in ways that look exactly like Apparating; Dobby even makes a sound similar to an Apparating wizard when he disappears. So what is this?

        First of all it is necessary to define a few terms. Whatever else they might be, both Apparating, Portkeying, Floo travel and the abilities of House-elves and phoenixes are examples of teleportation. I will use that term to describe any magical means of transportation that allows you to go from one point to another without actually traversing the intervening space.

        Now, the question becomes which kinds of teleportation are possible, and which kinds are impossible at Hogwarts; and if there are any restrictions on those kinds of teleportation which are possible.

        It is clear that Dobby and Fawkes do teleport within the castle, but since we have some very firm statements claiming that Apparating is impossible, the question then is whether what they are doing is Apparating or some other kind of teleportative magic, or in other words: is it correct that they can't Apparate or Disapparate inside Hogwarts, or is it not correct?

        The answer to this obviously depend to some degree on how you read the books; it has at times been debated heatedly in AFH-P where some hold that if it looks and sounds like Apparating, then it must be Apparating. Against this is held that it is extremely unlikely that both Hermione (who is, according to Rowling herself, normally very reliable when citing information from her books [1]) and Snape should be wrong. The majority of the posters in AFH-P does seem to think that house-elves (and by extension, Phoenixes) are exceptions from the Apparition ban at Hogwarts; either because they are specifically exempted from the protection, or because what they are doing isn't Apparating [AFH-P 030721] [AFH-P 030218]. In the latter case it is usually argued that Disapparating/Apparating specifically is the wizard spell or ability, while other kinds of magical teleportation is called by other names (Portkeying, Floo-travelling etc.) [AFH-P 030822] [AFH-P 030819] [AFH-P 010521] [AFH-P 000715] [AFH-P SDATE].

        The question of Dobby's teleportations also came up in an on-line chat with World Book Day on March 4, 2004[WBD-17]:

        Question (Rorujin):

        How is Dobby able to Apparate inside Hogwarts if no one else can?


        He's a house-elf, they've got powers wizards haven't got (but wizards have also got powers that house-elves haven't).

        The implication is here clearly that the power (or ability) of the house-elves is different from that of the wizards whether we call them both Apparating or not. While Rowling did not actually correct Rorujin's use of "Apparate" for Dobby, she does point out he (and other house-elves) is using a power which "wizards haven't got" — and as wizards very clearly has the power to Apparate ...

        While the above isn't definite with regards to the linguistic side of the argument (whether house-elf teleportation is really called "Apparating"), it is quite clear that whatever it is called, the power is different from wizardly Apparating and that it is this difference which allows house-elves to teleport within Hogwarts.

        This brings us to other kinds of teleportive magic: Portkeys, Floo-powder, house-elf disappearances and Phoenix (dis)appearances are those we know of. It would seem clear from the books that house-elf teleportation and Phoenix transportation is possible (Dobby and Fawkes are our sources for that) - and Dobby is even capable of teleporting before he enters the service of Hogwarts (The Rogue Bludger[CoS-10]).

        A more doubtful (and therefore more interesting) question is whether there are any protections in place against Portkeys and Floo Travel.

        In 'Snape's Grudge[PoA-14] we see Professor Lupin arrive in Snape's office by what is obviously Floo travelling, and in both The Hungarian Horntail[GoF-19] and Percy and Padfoot[OotP-14] we see Sirius using the Floo network to speak to Harry in the Gryffindor tower. It is, however, not entirely clear whether he could have actually entered the Gryffindor common room that way — if this is possible we can legitimately ask the question of why he bothered to attack the Fat Lady and steal Neville's password list in PoA since he could just have done what he did in [GoF-19] and broken into a wizarding house. Protecting Hogwarts against Apparating, which is difficult and requires a license, would also seem a bit pointless if you can enter and exit through every fireplace in the castle by means available even to the children of the wizarding world. It has been speculated that the protections surrounding Hogwarts allow the communication mode of the Floo network to work to the outside, but the transportation mode only works within the castle; effectively a Floo network "Firewall" [AFH-P 030225] [AFH-P 030422] [AFH-P 030818a] [AFH-P 030818b] [AFH-P 031030] [AFH-P 040216]

        With respect to Portkeys the evidence is less convincing either way than it is for both Apparating and Floo travelling. On one hand we have Crouch Jr's evidence in Veritaserum[GoF-35] that he turned the Triwizard Cup into a Portkey to take the winner (who was intended to be Harry alone) to the graveyard, and Dumbledore creating the Portkey to take Harry to the Headmaster's office in The Only One He Ever Feared[OotP-36], but on the other hand we have the suggestive evidence offered by Crouch Jr not choosing any old object to turn into a Portkey, and that of the reaction by the portraits of the former Headmasters (Phineas Nigellus) when Harry arrives The Lost Prophecy[OotP-37], "'This office is supposed to be barred to all but the rightful Headmaster. Or has Dumbledore sent you here?" This stronglysuggests that Harry would not have been able to make the journey by Portkey (or otherwise) unless sent by Dumbledore. This again indicates that it is indeed possible to shut a place to Portkeys. As with Floo travel it would not make much sense to block Hogwarts for other kinds of magical teleportation if it isn't blocked for Portkeys. It has been suggested that Crouch Jr chose the Triwizard Cup because it had either been authorised by Dumbledore as a Portkey (intended to take the winner out of the maze to the destination where Harry ends the second time he uses it), or Dumbledore had already cast the intended Portkey spell on the Cup, thereby removing the protections for that item. Whatever the exact mechanism the intention is that Crouch Jr had to use the Triwizard Cup because the (alleged) protection against Portkeys had been removed for that item.

        [1] Rowling said, in the interview at with Rowling and Steve Kloves conducted by BBC Newsround's Lizo and published on the CoS DVD extra material, the following: "Absolutely right, I find that all the time in the book, if you need to tell your readers something just put it in her. There are only two characters that you can put it convincingly into their dialogue. One is Hermione, the other is Dumbledore. In both cases you accept, it's plausible that they have, well Dumbledore knows pretty much everything anyway, but that Hermione has read it somewhere. So, she's handy." Back

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    2. Durmstrang
      1. Where is Durmstrang?

        Durmstrang's whereabouts are kept secret, we learn, but there are still a few clues to where it is located

        In [GoF-11] we read:

            'Durmstrang's another wizarding school?' said Harry.
            'Yes,' said Hermione sniffily, 'and it's got a horrible reputation. According to An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe, it puts a lot of emphasis on the Dark Arts.'
            'I think I've heard of it,' said Ron vaguely. 'Where is it? What country?'
            'Well, nobody knows, do they?' said Hermione, raising her eyebrows.
            'Er — why not?' said Harry.
            'There's traditionally been a lot of rivalry between all the magic schools. Durmstrang and Beauxbatons like to conceal their whereabouts so nobody can steal their secrets,' said Hermione matter-of-factly.
            'Come off it,' said Ron, starting to laugh. 'Durmstrang's got to be about the same size as Hogwarts — how are you going to hide a dirty great castle?'
            'But Hogwarts is hidden,' said Hermione, in surprise, 'everyone knows that ... well, everyone who's read Hogwarts: A History, anyway.'
            'Just you, then,' said Ron. 'So go on — how d'you hide a place like Hogwarts?'
            'It's bewitched,' said Hermione. 'If a Muggle looks at it, all they see is a mouldering old ruin with a sign over the entrance saying DANGER, DO NOT ENTER, UNSAFE.'
            'So Durmstrang'll just look like a ruin to an outsider too?'
            'Maybe,' said Hermione, shrugging, 'or it might have Muggle-Repelling Charms on it, like the World Cup Stadium. And to keep foreign wizards from finding it, they'll have made it Unplottable -'
            'Come again?'
            'Well, you can enchant a building so it's impossible to plot on a map, can't you?'
            'Er ... if you say so,' said Harry.
            'But I think Durmstrang must be somewhere in the far north,' said Hermione thoughtfully. 'Somewhere very cold, because they've got fur capes as part of their uniforms.'
            'Ah, think of the possibilities,' said Ron dreamily. 'It would've been so easy to push Malfoy off a glacier and make it look like an accident ... shame his mother likes him ...'

        And in [GoF-23]:

            'Vell, ve have a castle also, not as big as this, nor as comfortable, I am thinking,' he was telling Hermione. 'Ve have just four floors, and the fires are lit only for magical purposes. But ve have grounds larger even than these — though in vinter, ve have very little daylight, so ve are not enjoying them. But in summer ve are flying every day, over the lakes and the mountains -'
            'Now, now, Viktor!' said Karkaroff with a laugh that didn't reach his cold eyes. 'Don't go giving away anything else, now, or your charming friend will know exactly where to find us!'
            Dumbledore smiled, his eyes twinkling. 'Igor, all this secrecy ... one would almost think you didn't want visitors.'

        The last clue is the one name we learn beyond Krum (who's Bulgarian) and Karkaroff is "Poliakoff" ([GoF-16]). To summarise the clues to Durmstrang's whereabouts:

        • Hermione believes it to be to the "far north."
          Where the "far North." starts is of course not universally agreed upon. To a Dane (as I am) from about the latitude of Edinburg you have to be at least very close to the arctic circle — north of the 65th degree latitude, while for someone from Cornwall, Scotland is perhaps far north.
        • Krum tells: "- though in vinter, ve have very little daylight ..."
          Again discussions have raged as to what constitutes "very little daylight." Must there be a little daylight every day, or should we read Krum completely literally as meaning very little daylight through the whole winter? What can be said is that Krum contrasts it to Hogwarts at Christmas time — this would be about 6 hours and 40 minutes on the shortest day (calculated for the 57th degree northern latitude, which is approximately mid-Scotland).
        • The local geography features mountains and lakes. Whether or not Ron's joke about glaciers should be taken seriously, I will leave to you ...
          Again the question of what constitutes a mountain can be debated. How tall does it need to be?
        • The names ending in -off and -ov belong to the group of Slavic languages — as does Bulgarian.
          In the magical community, however, this does not necessarily mean that the school is located in a region where the language is Slavic.
        • A rather more vague clue is the sparing use of fires at Durmstrang — does this indicate the lack of a ready supply of wood? Is Durmstrang located in an unforested region?

        It appears to be the consensus that Durmstrang must be located north of the 60th degree northern latitude, but it is not agreed upon whether positions north of the arctic circle are permissible. Given the "lakes and mountains" clue the Scandinavian peninsula, the Kola peninsula and the western side of the Ural seem to be the most likely candidates together with the mountainous islands north of the continent if you allow positions north of the arctic circle.

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    3. Beauxbatons
      1. Where is Beauxbatons?

        "The Beauxbatons Academy of Magic" according to Hermione, who read about in An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe (Now there is a book your hard-working FAQ author would like to put his hands on ;-)

        From [GoF-9]:

            A huddle of teenagers in pyjamas was arguing vociferously a little way along the path. When they saw Harry, Ron and Hermione, a girl with thick, curly hair turned and said quickly, 'Où est Madame Maxime? Nous l'avons perdue -'
            'Er — what?' said Ron.
            'Oh ...' The girl who had spoken turned her back on him, and as they walked on they distinctly heard her say, ''Ogwarts.'
            'Beauxbatons,' muttered Hermione.
            'Sorry?' said Harry.
            'They must go to Beauxbatons,' said Hermione. 'You know ... Beauxbatons Academy of Magic ... I read about it in An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe.'
            'Oh ... yeah ... right,' said Harry.

        So Hermione concludes that the students are form Beauxbatons — apparently only from the fact that they speak French (there is no mention of school uniform). It must be assumed that Beauxbatons is the primary (if not the only) school for French-speaking wizards and witches from Europe. Again this does not necessarily mean that the school must be placed in a region where French is the first language — this is the magical community after all, where racing brooms, Portkeys, Floo powder and Apparating are common means of transport.

        A good clue is the Beauxbatons school uniform, which is hopelessly inadequate for the Hogwarts Hallowe'en weather — they must come from a warmer climate.

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  6. Events
    1. Specific Events
      1. How did Harry's godfather order the Firebolt for Harry?

        When discussing this question it is important to be aware of a difference between the Bloomsbury and the Scholastic versions of PoA. In the Bloomsbury the final letter from Sirius Black to Harry in Owl Post Again[PoA-22] mentions Black's vault number with Gringotts. The relevant passage of the letter reads:

            There is something I never got around to telling you during our brief meeting. It was I who sent you the Firebolt -
            Crookshanks took the order to the Owl Office for me. I used your name but told them to take the gold from Gringotts vault number seven hundred and eleven — my own. Please consider it as thirteen birthdays' worth of presents from your godfather.

        This passage obviously answers the above question — the only outstanding problems seem to be how the most wanted man in the wizarding world could access his Gringotts vault and how he authenticated the withdrawal without giving his name?

        As to the first question it is usually suggested that Gringotts either doesn't know or doesn't care who owns which vault (access to normal vaults seem to be purely based on who has the key to the vault[PS-5]) or else they don't co-operate with the Ministry of Magic (which would seem likely based on all the goblin rebellions we keep hearing about in History of Magic).

        As for the question about authentication, it would seem probable that there is some magical way of authenticating such a request without revealing who it comes from — else we can speculate that Sirius included some kind of anonymous authentication in the letter to Quality Quidditch Supplies without mentioning it in his letter to Harry.

      2. What was Professor Trelawney's first prediction?

        This question was definitively answered in The Lost Prophecy[OotP-37] where we are told the exact wording of her first prophecy:

            'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives ... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies ...'

        This prophecy was first mentioned in Owl Post Again[PoA-22]

            'Professor Dumbledore — yesterday, when I was having my Divination exam, Professor Trelawney went very — very strange.'
            Indeed?' said Dumbledore. 'Er — stranger than usual, you mean?'
            'Yes ... her voice went all deep and her eyes rolled and she said ... she said Voldemort's servant was going to set out to return to him before midnight ... she said the servant would help him come back to power.' Harry stared up at Dumbledore. 'And then she sort of became normal again, and she couldn't remember anything she'd said. Was it — was she making a real prediction?'
            Dumbledore looked mildly impressed.
            'Do you know, Harry, I think she might have been.' he said thoughtfully. 'Who'd have thought it? That brings her total of real predictions up to two. I should offer her a pay rise ...'

        Now, what might be the meaning of this prophecy?

        The first part speaks about the arrival of "the one." This is pretty standard language for literary prophecies, and signifies that there will be only one person "with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord." The prophecy then goes on to identify this one person. He will be born to parents "who have thrice defied [the Dark Lord]," this could of course mean several things, but when Dumbledore explains the prophecy he narrows it down to couples who have thrice narrowly escaped Voldemort. "Born as the seventh month dies" has also been the subject of some debate; it could refer to the seventh month of any calendar, including for instance the old Roman calendar from which some of the names of the months derive their names and in which the seventh month was the month which is actually called "the seventh month" ᾰ September. This is, however, a moot discussion as we know that the one really is Harry Potter[PVFAQ-VIA3].

        This first part was what was later related to Voldemort, and it still left some ambiguity as to who the one was as both Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom fulfills these criteria. The Dark Lord waited for a year before acting on this information (of course it may have taken a long time before his spy could get to tell him what he had overheard), but when he did act upon the information, he chose to try to kill the one in infancy, but achieved instead nothing more than fulfilling the next part of the prophecy; he marked Harry Potter as his equal[AFH-P 040101][AFH-P 031006]. It is, I think, interesting that Voldemort (or rather his earlier self) already in 'The Heir of Slytherin[CoS-17] noted that "there are strange likenesses between us, Harry Potter." Especially since the sixteen years old Tom Riddle had no way to know about the prophecy. Voldemort's attack on Harry, and the results of it, convinces Dumbledore and the keeper of the Hall of Prophecy that Harry is indeed the one[PVFAQ-VIA3].

        As with all the other clues and references that Rowling has left unexplained for some time, this has also been a subject of much debate in the newsgroup even prior to the release of OotP. The following is the summary of this discussion in this entry as it was prior to the revelation in book 5.

        The majority of those who dare to venture a guess seems to be that Trelawney predicted that James or Harry Potter would cause the downfall of Lord Voldemort. Variations on this theme include the use of the Gryffindor's Heir theory; that Trelawney predicted the final downfall or just the initial downfall of Voldemort; that she also predicted that Voldemort would try to kill the Potters (where others take it that he was trying to kill them because of her prediction).

        Another idea that has been suggested is that she predicted that killing Lily would cause the downfall of the Dark Lord (the beauty of this is that it gives him a far better reason for trying to spare Lily — the Death Eaters were well-known for killing entire families).

        Hopefully this will be among the things revealed in book 5[OotP] where Dumbledore will finally tell Harry to sit down because he is "going to tell [him] everything" — what he "should have told [Harry] five years ago"[BM].

      3. Who does the Prophecy refer to

        This question has been much discussed despite Dumbledore's explicit statement to Harry that "'I am afraid,' said Dumbledore slowly, looking as though every word cost him a great effort, 'that there is no doubt that it is you.'"

        The real question, however, appears to be why Neville was brought up at all in this. Why did Rowling think it necessary to add Neville to the equation if there is no doubt that Harry is "the one?"

        In the spirit of this FAQ I will consider Dumbledore's statement as absolute as an answer to who professor Trelawney's first prophecy referred to as "the one", which is indirectly confirmed by Rowling[WBD-105]. I will, however, certainly look forward to learning the reason why Neville was mentioned in this context.

      4. Didn't Harry's parents appear in the wrong order in Priori Incantatem (GoF ch. 34)?

        The first printings of GoF contained an error in that James Potter emerged before Lily Potter from Voldemort's wand during the Priori Incantatem effect. In this version, the relevant passage read:

            And now another head was emerging from the tip of Voldemort's wand ... and Harry knew when he saw it who it would be ... he knew, as though he had expected it from the moment when Cedric had appeared from the wand ... knew, because the man appearing was the one he'd thought of more than any other tonight ...
            The smoky shadow of a tall man with untidy hair fell to the ground as Bertha had done, straightened up, and looked at him ... and Harry, his arms shaking madly now, looked back into the ghostly face of his father.
            'Your mother's coming ...' he said quietly. 'She wants to see you ... it will be all right ... hold on ...'
            And she came ... first her head, then her body ... a young woman with long hair, the smoky, shadowy form of Lily Potter blossomed from the end of Voldemort's wand, fell to the ground, and straightened like her husband. She walked close to Harry, looking down at him, and she spoke in the same distant, echoing voice as the others, but quietly, so that Voldemort, his face now livid with fear as his victims prowled around him, could not hear ...
            'When the connection is broken, we will linger for only moments ... but we will give you time ... you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts ... do you understand, Harry?'

        This of course contradicts what we had been told earlier — that James died before Lily — and in later editions this was corrected to read:

            And now another head was emerging from the tip of Voldemort's wand ... and Harry knew when he saw it who it would be ... he knew, as though he had expected it from the moment when Cedric had appeared from the wand ... knew, because the woman appearing was the one he'd thought of more than any other tonight ...
            The smoky shadow of a young woman with long hair fell to the ground as Bertha had done, straightened up, and looked at him ... and Harry, his arms shaking madly now, looked back into the ghostly face of his mother.
            'Your father's coming ...' she said quietly. 'He wants to see you ... it will be all right ... hold on ...'
            And he came ... first his head, then his body ... tall and untidy-haired like Harry, the smoky, shadowy form of James Potter blossomed from the end of Voldemort's wand, fell to the ground, and straightened like his wife. He walked close to Harry, looking down at him, and he spoke in the same distant, echoing voice as the others, but quietly, so that Voldemort, his face now livid with fear as his victims prowled around him, could not hear ...
            'When the connection is broken, we will linger for only moments ... but we will give you time ... you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts ... do you understand, Harry?'

        It is still worth noticing the original reading as there are some who base their speculations on Rowling actually intending the original and only accepting the revision due to pressure from the editors. In that connection it is also worth noticing that the only phrase that is actually changed (not just moved) is the description of James as "a tall man with untidy hair" in the original and "tall and untidy-haired like Harry" in the later edition.

        These changes are followed up in The Parting of the Ways[GoF-36] where "... his mother ... his father ..." is changed to "... his father ... his mother ..." and "father " in "... Harry's father had told him what to do" is changed to "mother."

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    2. Time and timelines
      1. What is this problem with the timeline??

        When one investigates the dating clues that are spread throughout the books, the result is dishearteningly inconsistent. Most people therefore choose to rely on the most obvious piece of evidence in the books — the celebration of Sir Nicholas' five hundredth deathday in [CoS-8]. For an in-depth treatment of this see [TFO1].

      2. What happened when Harry and Hermione went back in time?

        Did they change the past? Who cast the Patronus Charm the first time around? How did Buckbeak come alive again? Questions like those have often been asked, but they are all based on a misunderstanding of how the time travelling is used in this particular case.

        Hermione clearly states that "Nobody's supposed to change time, nobody!" As a physicist I would find it very difficult indeed to accept any change to the past, but fortunately I don't have to worry about that.

        The important thing is to remember that there is only one time line, and that events happen only once — even if Harry and Hermione get to experience them twice (sort of like when we watch that goal in replay — except of course that Harry and Hermione get to interact with the events twice as well).

        Once this is kept firmly in place, then there are no more problems understanding the doubled events. The timeline now plays out as follows, where the younger versions of Harry and Hermione are unmarked while the older (time travelling) versions are marked

        Hermione Fetches Invisibility Cloak from tunnel under statue of hump-backed witch.

        Harry, Hermione and Ron (henceforth 'The Trio') go down to dinner and eat dinner.

        The Trio skulk in an empty chamber off the Entrance Hall.

        The Trio hear the "last pair of people hurrying across the Hall, and a door slamming."

        Harry and Hermione (henceforth 'The Duo') arrive from the future, run across the hall and enter a cupboard.

        The Trio crosses the hall, exits the castle and go towards Hagrid's hut under the Invisibility Cloak.

        The Duo hears "footsteps across the hall ... yes I think it's us going down to Hagrid's!"

        The Trio leaves the castle under the Invisibility Cloak and carefully walks to Hagrid's hut

        Hermione tells Harry about the Time-Turner while waiting in the cupboard.

        The Duo leaves the castle, runs to the forest and goes round to Hagrid's hut.

        The Trio knocks on Hagrid's door, Hagrid opens the door and invites them in.

        The Duo watch the events from the edge of the Forbidden Forest.

        Hermione finds Scabbers. Hagrid sees Dumbledore, Fudge, the Committee member and Macnair (henceforth 'The Officials') approach the hut.

        Hagrid lets the Trio out of the back door. Buckbeak, sensing Harry at the door and Harry in the forest, is nervous (that is my interpretation of Buckbeak's nervousness) — Harry feels "strangely unreal."

        The Officials approach Hagrid's hut and knock on the door

        The Officials in the hut. Reading judgement, signing and all that.

        The Trio leaves the hut and goes towards the castle. Scabbers goes berserk.

        After seeing Macnair watching Buckbeak from the window Harry goes to get Buckbeak.

        The Officials and Hagrid come out of the hut and discovers Buckbeak gone — Macnair swings his axe at the fence in frustration and Hagrid howls his joy.

        The Trio hears the "the unmistakable swish and thud of an axe" followed by Hagrid's howl wich is unintelligible due to the distance. The Trio mistakenly believes Buckbeak dead.

        The Duo hears the same swish and thud and concludes that "the executioner seemed to have swung it into the fence in anger." The Duo again hears Hagrid's howl "and this time they could hear Hagrid's words through his sobs."

        The Officials leave for the castle.

        The Trio: Ron has problems with Scabbers. Crookshanks arrives, Scabbers escape and first Ron and then Harry and Hermione follow him.

        The Duo takes Buckbeak with them to somewhere close to the Whomping Willow where they can observe the events.

        Ron catches Scabbers, 'Padfoot' arrives on the scene and drags Ron into the tunnel.

        The Duo watch the events around the Whomping Willow from the edge of the Forbidden Forest

        Crookshanks immobilises the Whomping Willow — Harry and Hermione follow Ron etc. into the tunnel.

        Event's in the Shrieking Shack plays themselves out as described in chapters 17, 18 and 19 of [PoA]

        The Duo watch as first Professor Remus Lupin and later Professor Severus Snape (taking the Invisibility Cloak) arrives at the Whomping Willow and enters the tunnel.

        The procession of the Trio, Pettigrew, Lupin, Black and Snape exits from the tunnel.

        Harry and Hermione are still watching.

        Lupin starts to transform, Black transforms to protect the Trio, Pettigrew transforms and escapes.

        The Duo leave the scene to get to safety in Hagrid's hut.

        Ron is left with his broken leg, while Harry and Hermione runs after Black.

        At Hagrid's hut Harry leaves Hermione and Buckbeak and goes to keep an eye on things.

        Harry tries to fight the Dementors as first Sirius and then Hermione falls motionless to the ground.

        Harry arrives on the other side of the lake — watching the Dementors attack Harry, Hermione and Black, and hoping to see who cast the Patronus Charm.

        Harry is overwhelmed by the Dementors and one of them lowers it's hood and grabs him in preparation to giving him the Kiss.

        Harry realises that it was always himself who conjured the Patronus, rises and casts the Patronus Charm.

        Harry is saved by the Patronus conjured by Harry — as it gallops back across the lake he sees Harry greet it and believes it to be James. Hereafter Harry passes out.

        Harry watches the Patronus save Harry and as it gallops back across the lake he rises to greet it. Recognising the shape he believes the Patronus to somehow be his father — Prongs.

        Snape arrives to take care of the unconscious Harry, Hermione and Black. He already has Ron floating along on a conjured stretcher.

        Hermione arrives with Buckbeak and is told what Harry did.

        Snape takes all up to the castle. Ron, Harry and Hermione are taken to the hospital while Black is (eventually?) taken to Professor Flitwick's office. Fudge sends Macnair to fetch the Dementors.

        The Duo waits, "watching the moving clouds reflected in the lake," until they see Macnair.

        Snape and Fudge goes to the Hospital wing, Dumbledore speaks with Black

        Harry and Hermione awakens in the hospital. They argue with Fudge and Snape.

        Dumbledore arrives in the Hospital wing.

        Harry and Hermione speak with Professor Dumbledore.

        Harry and Hermione rescues Black from Professor Flitwick's office.

        Harry and Hermione sends Black off with Buckbeak from the West Tower.

        The Duo hurries towards the hospital wing.

        Harry and Hermione leave for the past

        Harry and Hermione run the last feet of the corridor.

        Harry and Hermione are locked up in the hospital wing, where Madam Pomfrey starts feeding them chocolate.

        Snape arrives at the hospital, roaring with fury. He is followed by Minister Fudge and Professor Dumbledore

        One comment that has given rise to much confusion is Harry's explanation to Hermione "I knew I could do it this time because I'd already done it ..." Harry goes on to ask "does that make sense?" and, yes Harry, that makes perfect sense.
        To understand this we need to look at Harry's subjective time, which continues uninterrupted through first the experiences of Harry above and then the experiences of Harry. Following this time line, Harry first sees the Patronus chase off the Dementors and then sees the person who cast the charm. Later he realises that he himself cast it, and then he knows that he will be able to do it because he has already seen the effect. This may sound as a reversion of cause and effect, but that is only in Harry's subjective time line that this occurs — in the objective timeline as detailed above it is clear that Harry doesn't see the effect of the charm before it has been cast. The confusing bit is that these events take place along two different time lines: the 'objective' time line that continues uninterrupted and the subjective time line of Harry and Hermione. It is sufficient that the cause and effect relation is satisfied in one of them: it doesn't need to be satisfied in both.

        What is it, then, that the Time-Turner does? Well, it simply takes the person(s) wearing it back in time. It does not create a copy of the person — it is still the same person, but he or she is now able to live the same time again. Who did all of Hermione's exams? She did herself — by using the Time-Turner she was able to be at three exams at the same time — but in her subjective time, she did them one after the other.

        In physics the possibility of time travelling has been accepted for years. The problem with paradoxes has not been finally solved, though it is clear that any theoretical model for time quite must prohibit logical paradoxes — e.g. by claiming that any moment in time can happen only once (to reference on of the most popular theories). Everyone affecting that moment — whether they come from the past or the future — are there when the moment happens, and when it has happened, nothing can change it in any way. Despite the claims in the book (related by Hermione) that paradoxial events are known to have happened, (such as time-travelling wizards killing their former selves) everything in the book itself plays out as if it followed this model from physics. See also this excellent post by Mike Hanson[AFH-P 031112].

        One might say that Harry and Hermione go back in time in order to ensure that the past happens as they know it did — by their actions they don't change anything that happened before, but rather they make sure that they do happen. This is, however, strictly from the point of view of their subjective time lines. In the terms of the single objective time line we have both Harry, Harry, Hermione and Hermione acting as free-willed agents (inviolability of the past does not remove the free choice of the time-travelling wizards; like a prophecy it can only be used to tell us what the outcome of their free choices will be). See also [TFO6]

        This is of course not the same as saying that this is definitely the way time works in Potterverse, the exact reproduction of the past could be due to random chance, or it could be because Rowling has decided only to describe the final time line. The question has been much discussed on AFH-P, and though my scientific prejudices make me believe that Hermione was relating erroneous or misunderstood information when she said that time travelling wizards had ended up killing their past selves, this is an opinion based on my literary tastes, and certainly not the last word in the debate. I suspect that the "last word" is a long way off unless Rowling chooses to elucidate us, but many words have already been said. The following links should give an impression of not only the size of the discussion (I have left out more than I have included, though the main threads are, hopefully, all here), but also of the history of this debate on AFH-P: [AFH-P 040301] [AFH-P 040225] [AFH-P 040116] [AFH-P 031106] [AFH-P 031020] [AFH-P 031004] [AFH-P 030429] [AFH-P 021213] [AFH-P 021114] [AFH-P 020422] [AFH-P 010619] [AFH-P 010611] [AFH-P 000807] [AFH-P 000806]

        Perhaps I had better stop here, before I start confusing anyone (if I haven't done that already).

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  7. Story External Questions
    1. The Harry Potter Books
      1. What is considered canon?

        Apart from it's biblical, musical other meanings, the word 'canon' is applied in literature to the works that can with certainty be attribted to one single author. When we speak of the Harry Potter canon, we refer to that part of the J.K. Rowling canon which deals with the universe (or sub-creation) in which the Harry Potter stories are set. The Harry Potter canon is generally extended with other statements from Rowling that pertains to the subject, but the demarcation is not always clear.

        The primary canonical texts are of course the Harry Potter books of which there is so far five with two more being planned, and the supplementary books, of which there is two at the moment, which are the two Comic Relief books, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them[FB] and Quidditch through the Ages[QttA], and more are hoped for

        The various interviews, on-line chats etc. are considered secondary canon, by which is meant that these texts are considered a less reliable than the published books, but are still considered legitimate sources of information about Rowling's intent.

        Material which is known to originate from Rowling is considered the least reliable part of canon — if it is accepted at all. This tertiary material includes such material as interviews where Rowling isn't quoted verbatim, the Godric's Hollow scene from the PS film, the appearance of the Quidditch pitch in the films. Material which we positively know originate from Rowling, but which has been interpreted by someone else before we get see it.

        Other material, including such material which is ostensibly approved by Rowling, is not considered part of the Harry Potter book canon in AFH-P. This includes the films, the extra material on the VHS and DVD releases (apart from interviews with Rowling, obviously) like the Hogwarts timeline on the CoS film DVD ROM, the collectible wizard cards and much other material.

      2. Are the Harry Potter books children's books?

        First of all I have to wonder, "Does it really matter?" If you enjoy the books does it, whether you're a child or an adult, matter what audience someone else imagines them to be intended for?

        The books are generally marketed as children's books, though Bloomsbury has made a special adult line of Harry Potter books (with different covers - that's all)[BMHP]

        The one person whose opinion might carry some weight is the author. Rowling has repeatedly referred to the Harry Potter books as children's books. The first known reference is the original letter to her agent, Christopher Little[JKR letter]. The relevant part reads, "I enclose a synopsis and sample chapters of a book intended for children aged 9 - 12."

        Since then (October 1999) Rowling has, in a Boston radio show[tC-10], said:

        And I have been writing ever since I was six. I'd never thought of myself as a children's writer, erm - but I'd never been so excited about an idea for a book as I had about the Harry books, so I abandoned the novel I was then working on and started on Harry.

        And later[tC-31], "I do not believe I'm going to be doing anything that will alienate a nine-year-old."

        Latest she has very clearly referred to all the books, at least up to and including OotP as "children's books" in the interview with Jeremy Paxman just before the release of OotP (June 19th, 2003)[RAH]:

            Yeah. Well I had re-written the death, re-written it and that was it. It was definitive. And the person was definitely dead. And I walked into the kitchen crying and Neil said to me, "What on earth is wrong?" and I said, "Well, I've just killed the person". Neil doesn't know who the person is. But I said, "I've just killed the person". And he said, "Well, don't do it then." I thought, a doctor you know....and I said "Well it just doesn't work like that. You are writing children's books, you need to be a ruthless killer.

        So, are the Harry Potter books children's books?
        Well, Rowling herself seems to believe so, and others (e.g. A.S. Byatt) certainly also think so. Byatt even goes so far as to call adults who read Harry Potter "childish"[ASB]

        In the end I can only repeat my question, "Does it matter?" Despite being only 37 I do consider myself adult, and I certainly enjoy the Harry Potter books tremendously. To me they have something to offer which is absent in many books for adults and I also believe that they can offer themes which are apparent only to an adult reader (not saying that the kids "don't get it" - only that they aren't, in my experience, conscious about "getting it").

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  8. Definitions of terms and abbreviations



    Necessary condition

    A is a necessary condition for B if B can only be true if A is true — i.e. if B is true means that A is also true.

    Sufficient condition

    A is a sufficient condition for B if no other conditions are necessary — i.e. if A is true means that B is also true.


    A division into three parts, elements, or classes[Merriam-Webster Dictionary].

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